ROCHELLE – With all the stress, fear and uncertainty spreading in the world today, many phone scammers are attempting to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals during these troubling times.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started and the stay-at-home order went into effect, both residents and authorities have seen an increase in reports of scam phone calls. Nonprofit organization the Better Business Bureau, Rockford office, uses a scam tracker technology to locate these phone calls.
The technology used is linked to a national network of 100 different offices in the United States, Canada and Mexico, which track and identify the different types of calls. The technology is so accurate it can track calls down to the zip code in a certain state. The BBB has seen a drastic increase in scam calls since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Since the advent of the pandemic, we have seen a ten-fold increase in the number of types of scams that are out there,” said Dennis Horton, BBB director of the Rockford regional office. “The most prevalent types deal with the stimulus checks people are waiting to receive as well as filling out the 2020 Census. When you look at the pandemic, the census and stimulus check all happening at once, it almost creates the perfect storm for scammers.”
The information gathered is sent to local and state law enforcement agencies including the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, The Federal Trade Commission and local police departments. Recent phone scams in Rochelle have reported somebody pretending to be calling from Consumer Collections at the U.S. Diagnostics Lab.
Rochelle resident Barb Manning received a suspicious phone call earlier this week from a woman posing as an official collection caller who claimed Manning owed for blood work dating back to April 2018. The caller told Manning she owed $385.54 and a $75 late fee could be waived if they came to an agreement on the phone.
Manning was smart and told the scammer that she would not pay anything until she researched it further. The scammer on the phone agreed and left 618-881-1117, as a number to reach her back.
Manning then looked deeper into the call and the suspicious bill and found out the entire thing was a scam.
“I called my insurance company and they called U.S. Diagnostics Lab, which is an official organization,” Manning said. “The lab said they had nothing on record for me at all and my insurance had absolutely no claim filed; we know it was a scam.”
Since receiving the phone call, Manning has contacted the Rochelle Police Department, and after multiple attempts to call back the number, it has not answered. Scam phone calls are something that occurs all the time, especially when there are big headlines in the news scammers can use to bait their victims.
While these calls can be a real threat to anybody with a phone number, people can stay safe by being cautious and doing some research. The No. 1 way to stay safe is to never give out any personal or banking information over the phone, even if the person uses a real person or organizations name.
“Don’t volunteer any personal information such as bank card information or social security number,” said Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby. “Even if somebody calls and says they are from a local doctor’s office, make sure to check into that. Anybody can look up a doctor’s office online and say they are calling from that office.”