What you can do to help stop annoying phone scams - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

What you can do to help stop annoying phone scams

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We've all gotten those annoying phone calls from scammers. 

And we all wish we could make them stop.

Generally these calls originate overseas using computer programs like voice over Internet. It makes the calls difficult to trace. The United States government hasn't figure out how to stop the calls, but the call blocking technology is getting better.

Every time the phone rings Pat Raymond gets anxious.

"I get them all the time that I'm going to jail because I haven't paid my income tax. In fact one day 3 friends and I all got the same call," said Raymond.

This senior from Winooski says phone scammers prey on her generation. That's because seniors have landlines, money and they're home during the day.

"If it's a live person I tell them not to call me again because I'm going to contact the police and I do this over and over and over. They don't listen," said Raymond.

Most days Raymond gets 4 to 6 calls from these crooks looking to steal her cash and personal information.

National statistics show 1 in 5 seniors has been a victim of financial fraud.

But it's a crime that affects all age groups. 

The Vermont Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program got 5,324 reports of scams last year.

Most people complained about the IRS impostor scam fake debt collectors and scammers pretending to be from Microsoft offering to fix a computer problem you didn't know you had.

In total, Vermonters lost $425,950 to wire fraud in 2015.

Sweepstakes scams promising unrealistic perks cost Vermonters more than $100,000. Imposter scams, like asking a senior to help a troubled grandkid abroad swiped another $60,000.

Experts say the best thing to do is to ignore these calls.

"If you don't recognize the telephone number and it shows up on your caller ID try not to pick up. And if they leave you a message, do not call them back because the more you engage with them the more likely they are to continue to call you," said Lauren Jandi from the Consumer Assistance Program. 

The Consumer Assistance Program is hoping a device will help. It's a call blocking unit that hooks up to your telephone and allows you to block unwanted calls. The idea is to cut down on the number of thieves who reach your landline. 

"If you find yourself on the phone that either is a scammer or you don't want a telemarketer to call back in again you hit that big button and so it prevents that number from being able to call you in the future," said Danielle Shaw from the Consumer Assistance Program.

The devices sell for $50 to $100. Anyone can buy them online. But the Consumer Assistance Program is giving 50 away to seniors in Chittenden County through a grant program. In exchange, the participants will help them gauge the effectiveness of the units.

Raymond can't wait to have hers installed.

"My neighbor who's 90, she gets stressed out and I don't blame her any. She doesn't like getting these phone calls. None of us do," said Raymond.

WCAX also asked if signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry would help with this problem. What we learned is that's just for legitimate telemarketers. Since scammers are already breaking the law, they're not going to honor that list.

For more information on the call blocking program and if you qualify call the Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424 or email consumer@uvm.edu.

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