The hidden dangers of complex phone scams

B.R. Shenoy

How to protect yourself from fraudulent calls.
Phone ScamPhoto byAdrian SwancaronUnsplash

According to Truecaller, a company that develops an application for blocking spam calls, there has been a significant increase in phone scams. 

In 2022 alone, approximately 70 million Americans fell victim to these scams, resulting in a staggering total of nearly $40 billion lost to scammers. These scams encompass various fraudulent activities initiated through phone calls and text messages.

I recently came across an alarming article in NPR highlighting the rise of these imposter scams, where criminals impersonate individuals of authority to deceive innocent victims into divulging personal information or parting with their hard-earned money.

One particular case involving Valeria Haedo, a New York City resident, caught my attention, shedding light on the seriousness of this issue. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the details of this scam and discuss important takeaways to help you safeguard yourself against such fraudulent activities.

The Story of Valeria Haedo

Valeria Haedo's ordeal began with a phone call from someone claiming to be US Customs and Border Protection Officer Robert Daniels. The imposter accused Haedo of engaging in illegal activities and attempted to intimidate her. Haedo, understandably concerned, tried to verify the caller's identity online and found information that seemed to match, leading her to believe the call was legitimate.

The scammer went on to involve another individual, Officer Thomas Michael O'Connor of the United States Marshals Service in Texas. They claimed that Haedo had fallen victim to identity theft and urged her to protect her identity and bank account.

As the conversation progressed, the scammers demanded that she withdraw a large sum of money and convert it into digital currency.

Sensing something was amiss, Haedo grew suspicious and resisted their demands. In response, the fraudsters threatened to freeze her bank account if she did not comply.

Haedo eventually hung up after enduring three hours of manipulation, only to discover the following day that her bank account was secure.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Government Agencies' Official Statements: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the FBI have issued online advisories clarifying that they never initiate unsolicited phone calls requesting money. It is crucial to be aware of this fact and remain vigilant.
  2. Reporting Incidents: If you become a target of such scams, it is essential to report the incident promptly. Reach out to the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to provide them with the necessary information. Reporting not only helps protect yourself but also assists authorities in tracking down and apprehending these criminals.
  3. Caller ID Spoofing: Scammers often employ tactics like caller ID spoofing to make their calls appear legitimate. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created YouTube videos and instructional materials to help the public recognize and combat this technique. Educate yourself about these spoofing methods to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.
  4. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off during a phone conversation, trust your instincts. Be wary of unsolicited calls, especially those making outrageous claims or pressuring you to take immediate action. Take the time to verify the identity of the caller independently before sharing any personal information or making financial transactions.

Closing Thoughts

Imposter scams are a growing concern in our increasingly digital world. The story of Valeria Haedo serves as a stark reminder of the lengths fraudsters will go to manipulate innocent individuals.

By staying informed and adopting preventive measures, we can protect ourselves from falling victim to these scams.

Remember, government agencies will never initiate unsolicited calls for money, and it is crucial to report such incidents to the appropriate authorities.

Stay alert, stay informed, and help spread awareness to protect others from becoming victims of these malicious schemes.


Have you ever been the victim of a phone scam? Let us know in the comments.

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A seasoned content creator with an M.S. in Toxicology, specializing in unique narratives, heartwarming animal tales, and local news.

Texas, State

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