Oh, those slippery scammers

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Technology and jurisdictional hurdles continue to make hooking phone scammers difficult. (Courtesy of AARP.org)

Reporting scams

Residents are urged to report scams to the Idaho Attorney General's Office at (800) 432-3545.

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

One case that technology hasn't cracked involves telephone and email scams.

AARP members from throughout the state vented their frustrations over ever-increasing con artists' shenanigans — and the culprits not getting caught — during a conference call on Wednesday with the Idaho Attorney General's Office.

Brett DeLange, chief of the AG's Consumer Protection Division, said those concerns are valid.

However, easing them is difficult.

In many cases, he said, the impostor is in a foreign country, making it nearly impossible to hook the suspect.

"It's much more difficult than people think," said DeLange.

"It's not unusual for phone callers to sublease, sublease and sublease telephone numbers so if you want to track the number and serve subpoenas, you have to go four to five levels before you find who owns that number. Almost all imposter calls are from overseas, not the next town over. To reach people is significantly limited. It's a big challenge."

Adding to the complexity of the problem, DeLange said, caller ID can easily be circumvented in today's technological world, making victims think the caller is from inside the state because a 208 area code appears.

"We have jurisdictional, law and technology challenges," DeLange said. "That's why education is probably the most important thing we can focus on."

DeLange said Attorney General Lawrence Wasden recently wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, urging it to develop technology tools to track calls.

"It's a national problem and it's going to take a national technology solution," DeLange said.

DeLange said residents should also call or write to their federal elected officials about the problem of scams.

"They need to hear from different levels that people want their peace and privacy to be left alone," he said.

AARP Idaho Director Lupe Wissel said switching from a land line to a cell phone used to eliminate phone scams, but the scammers have mastered cracking mobile devices now.

One resident wondered if being placed on the "do-not-call" list does any good if scammers are still calling, but DeLange said it still helps.

"The do-not-call list does not stop a con artist from calling, but it's a privacy measure," he said. "If they are a legitimate marketer, they are not going to call. If you're on the do-not-call list and you get a call (that's not recognizable) that can be a red flag."

DeLange said that if he receives a call from a number he doesn't recognize, he doesn't answer it.

"If it's important enough, they'll leave a message," he said. "More often than not, it's someone trying to sell me extended warranty insurance. Not answering the phone (if its a number not recognized) cuts down on some of the stress and grief."

DeLange said many Idahoans can be too generous and polite to hang up.

"It's perfectly acceptable to hang up the phone because (the callers) will stay on as long as you let them," he said.

Resident David Berry said he's taken the opposite approach — playing games with the callers and trying to keep them on the line as long as possible — and that has worked for him.

"I've had them on as high as 6 minutes," he said. "To these criminals, time is money. I have fun with it. For me personally, it's diminished the calls greatly."

DeLange said some fundraising companies receive a portion of donations, so if folks want to make sure that 100 percent of their donation is going to the cause, he suggested going to that charitable organization directly rather than waiting for a telemarketer to call them.

"We don't know who they are," he said of the callers. "The message isn't to not give to charities, but maybe we have to shop around who really is doing work in the community."

DeLange encouraged those on the conference call to spread the word to their family members and friends about scams.

"It's going to take a community effort to get this word out," he said.

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