If you received a phone call about a dire situation, your instinct would be to act immediately and follow instructions to resolve the issue. Scammers are familiar with this reflex and look to take advantage of your emotions by calling their victims about phony urgent situations and claiming urgent attention is required. Learn about the different emergency scam phone calls you could receive, and what to do if you are contacted by a scammer.
The immigration process to obtain a visa or citizenship can be complex and confusing to navigate, and scammers are well-aware of all the uncertainty that comes with the situation. In this variety of the emergency phone call scam, you may receive a call from an individual who claims to be an immigration official who states that there is a problem with your immigration documentation or status and that you will face immediate deportation if you do not send an immediate payment via money transfer.
Remember, legitimate immigration services will never call an applicant and ask for more detailed information over the phone. Scammers understand that undocumented immigrants and those who have a language barrier are often willing to provide this information by making threats of deportation.
Immigration fees can be paid in a variety of methods, but be sure to verify the correct payment methods, filing fees, and addresses before responding to an unsolicited phone call.
Business Email Compromise
Business Email Compromise, or BEC, is another form of the emergency phone call scam that targets organizations and employees through legitimate-sounding business requests. This ploy conducts unauthorized transfers of funds by pretending to be vendors, colleagues, or executives that you regularly work with, or would be eager to assist. BEC attacks rely instead on seemingly sincere human contact using impersonation and other social engineering techniques to trick people to act on the attacker’s behalf.
Always be on alert if you notice sudden changes to business practices or contact information. If you are asked to handle an invoice or request from an executive or vendor that would not normally rely on you as a point of contact, verify the directive independently with another colleague before acting.
Fraudsters know that people are anxious to submit their tax forms with accuracy, which can lead to stressful conditions. In this scam tactic, scammers will call and impersonate government officials threatening arrest if tax inconsistencies are not paid immediately, even using a money transfer.
It is important to remember that government organizations almost always resolve issues by mail, not by social media, email, text, or even phone. You should never receive a payment request without first receiving a bill. Government officials also allow questions or appeals regarding your bill, they would never demand immediate payment and would never threaten arrest, deportation, suspension, or similar consequences.
In this scenario, scammers will call a family member, often a grandparent, and pretend to be a loved one who is in trouble. The caller will say that they are in a foreign city, urgently need money for bail, legal fees, or hospital bills, and that the issue must be kept a secret from other family members. The caller will tell the victim where to wire the money, and many grandparents do not hesitate to rescue their loved one from a bad situation. But of course, there is no emergency, the real grandchild is safe from harm; it’s the scammer who collects the money by exploiting one’s vulnerability.
It is not hard for scammers to gather personal information about you, your family, and friends from the internet and social media to believably impersonate your loved one. Be prepared with a short list of specific questions that only your circle of family and friends can answer to be sure you are not talking to a scammer. Remember to always verify an emergency phone call. Take down the number but do not take immediate action until you can independently confirm they, in fact, are having an emergency. Call or text the person you are trying to help or contact other family members regardless of the caller’s request to keep it a secret.
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to one of these scams and sent money using Western Union, report it immediately by calling your country-specific fraud hotline at /global-service/report-fraud-hotline.
Find more information on fraud and scams and how to protect yourself at wu.com/fraudawareness.