Call for Action: Scam reports spiked in 2017

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Reported scams skyrocketed in 2017, according to Call for Action.

Ed Bartholme, executive director of Call for Action said most of the scam reports are related to robocalls.

“Last year nationally, we saw a big uptick in scams,” Bartholme said.

“It’s predictive dialers,” he explained. “It’s things like neighborhood spoofing, where it’s the first three digits of your area code, the first three digits of your phone number and then they make up the last four. These are all driving scam opportunities.”

Bartholme pointed to examples including the “grandparent scam,” where a caller poses as a family member who needs money to get out legal trouble and the “IRS scam,” where the caller tells you you owe money to the federal government immediately.

“It seems like they go back to the well and keep digging out variations on the same theme with a slightly different hook line or a slightly different back story,” Bartholme said.

“The big commonality that we see is the request to pay with gift cards,” he said. “They want you to drive out to a local store, buy an iTunes card, buy an Amazon card, come back and read them the numbers.”

“The reality is, none of the places who you’ve skipped the jury for are going to let you pay them with an iTunes gift card,” Bartholme added.

The best advice for consumers is to not pick up the phone if you don’t recognize the number.

If somebody does leave a message and wants you to call them back, call a number that you independently verify leads to that agency,” Bartholme cautioned.

Susan Campbell ( is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.