Phone and internet scams proliferate

The Maui News

“Yes Can You Hear Me” and Legal Aid Society phone scams and an internet Google Doc phishing scam have been reported on Maui and in the state in recent weeks.

Robert Alsman of Kihei said he received the “Yes” scam call Monday morning. The caller, whose number showed as (808) 774-7250 on caller ID, said, “This is Michael of the emergency medical system on a recorded line. Can you hear me?”

He replied “yes” and after a pause the message was repeated. Alsman decided it was a scam and hung up. He was told by Hawaiian Telcom that the (808) 774 prefix is reserved by the company for future use on Molokai and that no customers have been assigned to the prefix.

In late March, the Federal Communications Commission put out an alert for scam callers seeking to get their victims to say the word “yes” during a call. The scammers use the recording to authorize unwanted charges on the victim’s utility or credit card account.

The FCC alert says that callers impersonate representatives from organizations that provide a service and may be familiar to the person receiving the call, such as a mortgage lender or utility, to establish a legitimate reason for calling.

The scam begins with the caller asking, “Can you hear me?” The caller records the victim’s “yes” response and obtains a voice signature.

Those who have received the call should do as Alsman did — hang up. But if the call was answered, the receiver of the call should review all bank and credit card and telephone statements for unauthorized charges.

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by the scam should immediately report the incident to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/ and to the FCC Consumer Help Center at www.fcc.gov/consumers.

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii reported a phone scam last week with callers asking for money for the society, the Office of the Public Defender and the state courthouse. Other legal services organizations nationwide have reported the scam.

In some instances, people are told that a case is pending involving a friend or family member and that a monetary payment is required to pursue the case. Other variations of the scam involve the caller claiming to be collecting donations on behalf of a national Legal Aid or Public Defender office and may leave a toll free 1-800 number. The caller may even claim to be representing a courthouse.

In all instances, the caller will try to collect credit card information over the phone.

The state Department of the Attorney General asks anyone who gave money through this phone scam to contact its office at (808) 586-1500.

Donations to the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii may be made online at www.legalaidhawaii.org or by sending a donation directly to Legal Aid’s Honolulu office, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu 96813.

The National Legal Aid & Public Defender Association is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. For more information about this organization, go to www.nlada.org.

The phishing scam, reported last week by the Better Business Bureau in Hawaii, involved people receiving an email with an attached Google Doc, which appears to be coming from someone they know.

Users are prompted to click the link to open the document, which will then redirect them to a legitimate Google sign-in page and then to choose which Google account they would like to use. Once this is done, users will be asked to authorize an app called “Google Docs” — which is not a Google app.

Once the app receives permission to manage the user’s emails, it sends out the same email to all of the user’s contacts, and it appears to be from the victim.

The hackers also may have access to all accounts and information tied to the victim’s Google account.

Although the email appears to be coming from a personal contact, the phishing scam is easily identifiable because the document will appear to be coming from hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com. People who receive such an email should not click on the attachment and delete the email immediately.

Users who clicked on the document should change their Google account password as well as any passwords on accounts attached to the Google account.

Users should be sure to remove the permissions from the fake “Google Docs” app by going to myaccount.google.com. From there users can go to “Sign-In and Security” and “Connected Apps” and delete any apps they do not recognize.

The Better Business Bureau and the attorney general offered some phone tips to avoid scams:

• Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.

• If the phone solicitor makes you feel uncomfortable, hang up.

• Do not respond to texts or calls from unknown numbers requesting personal account numbers, Social Security numbers or any other personal information.

• Do not provide any personal information over the phone unless certain of the individual or institution contacted.

To reduce telemarketing calls on home and on cellphones, go to donotcall.gov or call (888) 382-1222 or (866) 290-4236 (TTY).

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