A phone scam has hit a handful of Mendota Heights residents with an unusually high volume of calls, and has left at least one of the targets with concerns for senior residents who may also be receiving the calls.
Mendota Heights City Council Member Liz Petschel is one of the residents receiving the calls. She said the volume has been “extraordinary,” sometimes three to four a day, often at inconvenient times.
The scammers call from a U.S. area code, and after a recorded message, will identify themselves with some generic title such as “Card Services,” according to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. (see attached pdf fact sheet).
The caller may imply that something is wrong with the resident’s credit card or suggest they can help lower the cardholder's interest rate. From there, the caller asks for or “phishes” for financial and personal information that can then be used to steal the recipient's identity or drain their bank account.
The caller may also promise to lower the call recipient’s credit card rates in exchange for payment of "upfront fees." They may also imply an affiliation with a bank and ask the recipient to "verify" banking information.
MN Attorney General’s Office Warning
The Minnesota Attorney General’s office warns residents to hang up, and not to return voicemails from these types of calls. Any "fees" paid to a scheme will not be recovered. A legitimate bank will never verify account information over the phone.
The scammers use a technique called Caller ID “spoofing” to temporarily steal phone numbers from the U.S., which Petschel suspects increases the likelihood that someone will pick up the phone expecting an out-of-state friend or relative to be at the end of the line.
Meanwhile the perpetrators could actually be overseas, where enforcement of U.S. laws can be difficult.
Mendota Heights Resident Jill Smith has been receiving the calls for several months now, usually one every other day.
"Frankly, I see the number and I screen the calls now," said Smith. "It’s annoying to have to be drawn to the phone but I don’t participate and I don’t engage in them."
Petschel, who operates a ministry for the homebound including older adults, said that senior citizens could be particularly vulnerable to the scam.
“The elderly are so ripe for scams, and I think part of it is they did not grow up in a scamming era,” said Petschel.
Report "spoofed" calls to the Federal Communications Commission and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at:
445 12th Street SWWashington, DC 20554
121 7th Place East
St. Paul, MN 55101
651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782
Report violations of the national "Do Not Call" list to the Federal Trade Commission:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
Toll-free helpline: 877-382-4357
The Minnesota Dept. of Commerce also has authority over falsification of Caller ID information and violations of the state "Do Not Call" list.
85 East Seventh Place, Suite 500
St. Paul, MN 55101