Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office reports several scams - including one involving debt collecting - are circulating in the state and have been reported in recent weeks to the state's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The scams involve caller ID spoofing, the illegal use of sophisticated computer technology to hide the identify of callers and defraud consumers. It is a challenge to locate the person making the calls, and if consumers transfer money, it can be difficult to recover.
The debt collection scam is a twist on an old scam - callers claiming to be from the attorney general's office seeking to collect an unpaid payday loan or other debt. The caller threatens that the consumer will be charged with theft by deception and arrested by local police if a payment by credit card or electronic money transfer is not made within 24 hours. These calls also have been made by people posing as Internal Revenue Service representatives, calling to collect unpaid taxes.
Other scams reported in Pennsylvania in recent weeks involve a sweepstakes operation and a tech-support scam.
Callers claim to represent a sweepstakes company awarding a prize to the consumer, which can be claimed once the consumer sends a payment to cover processing fees and taxes.
Callers claiming to be from well-known companies such as Microsoft contact consumers alleging they detected viruses or other malware (malicious software) on the consumers computer.
To build the consumers confidence, the scammer will retrieve a "serial number" that is actually just a product code number associated with any computer using Microsoft or another operating system.
Most consumers do not have the technological expertise to make that distinction. They assume the scammer is legitimate and that there is a virus on their computer, so they turn over login and password information. Some scammers even request credit card information for payment.