The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 12, 2013

Shutdown halts some anti-fraud efforts

By Randy Meier
The Clinton Herald

---- — Many folks call me to report unwanted phone calls from telemarketers or scammers masquerading as legitimate telemarketers.

Other folks call me to report identity theft or other fraud. One of the methods we use to fight this kind of activity is to report it to federal authorities, who track these kinds of things. Two of the options available for reporting are the Do Not Call Registry and the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel.

Anyone can call or go online to make reports. Frequently, I make the complaint on behalf of citizens who call me with problems. With the Do Not Call Registry, you can register your phone number, preventing telemarketers from making calls to your number.

However, for the duration of this government shutdown, you can do nothing with either of these federal resources. Both are shut down to the public, and to law enforcement. One of the features of the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel is the ability for law enforcement to search nationwide complaints.

For instance, if someone calls me and tells me they got a call from a certain number, and the caller represented themselves as a debt collector, I can research that number to see if the number showed up in other complaints of fraud. That’s pretty useful information if you are trying to figure out whether a debt collection call is a scam, or for real. But until the government gets back in business, none of us can use this resource.

Slots still available

The AARP Safe Driving class, co-hosted by Seniors vs. Crime, is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Clinton Community College Technology Center, 1951 Manufacturing Drive in Clinton. The class is about half full with registered students now.

If you want to attend, get yourself registered soon. To register, call (888) 336-3907 at Eastern Iowa Community College District, or call Clinton Community College at 244-7100. You need to register for Safe Driving Class, Course 128435 ($14 cost for non-AARP members), or if you are an AARP member, Course 128439 ($12 cost).

It is the same class. You can also register online by visiting www.eicc.edu/ceregistration.

Medication disposal

For the last six years, Seniors vs. Crime, in cooperation with the Gateway Impact Coalition, our local drug abuse coalition, and other agencies, sponsored Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day, usually in the early fall, right about now. It provided an opportunity for members of the community to safely dispose of unneeded or outdated prescription drugs, by dropping them off at several sites in Clinton County. Maybe you were keeping your eyes out for notices as to when to expect this event again.

Well, we aren’t doing it again. The system has evolved, for the better. Since late fall 2012, Clinton County law enforcement, the Iowa American Water Company, and the Gateway Impact Coalition installed four drop boxes, in the lobbies of the Clinton Co Sheriff’s Office, Clinton Police Department, Dewitt Police Department, and Camanche Police Department. If you need to drop off prescription drugs, you can bring them into any of these locations and get rid of them. This service is available whenever the lobby of these law enforcement facilities are open.

Scam trends

The tech support scam keeps bedeviling people. Although I’ve written on this before, I will repeat the warning. The scam starts with someone calling, claiming to represent Microsoft, Windows, or in a recent case, Mediacom.

The callers claim they know of errors or viruses on your computer, and ask for remote access so they can diagnose and correct the problem. Once they gain remote access, they can search out all kinds of information you don’t want them to know, or install ransom ware or malware you don’t want. In the most recent case I learned of, the scammers installed a password lock on the victim’s computer, and demanded a ransom of the victim’s credit card number to clear the lock. He refused.

The lock stayed in place, and he needed to take the computer to a local service, who charged $120 to remove the virus which placed the lock.

I received a call from a Clinton woman who reported she received a recorded call from the IRS, asking her to call in. The call originated from the 202 area code, which is the Washington, D.C. area code. Sounds plausible, right? Well, no. The IRS does not make unsolicited phone calls to taxpayers. It conducts business through U.S. mail. I’ve noted several warnings on consumer fraud websites that report many fraudulent calls originating from the 202 area code. Consumers need to know technology allows scammers to disguise their phone numbers, making them appear to come from somewhere they did not.

Keep me posted on any scams you experience. I can be reached at Seniors vs. Crime at 242-9211, ext. 4433. I’m here to help out, but if I don’t know about it, I can’t help.

Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.