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Published on Tuesday, November 23, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The end of the year in Costa Rica marks a time when people carry large amounts of money to do their Christmas shopping or New Year's Eve party or holiday break vacations.

This time also marks when employees of private companies and government workers receive the so-called Aguinaldo (Christmas bonus). In the government sector alone, more than $300 million has been budgeted for the payment of the Christmas bonus to public employees, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Many people also receive extra money such as Christmas bonuses, bank account dividends, among others. December also kicks off the high tourism season for the country.
According to Esteban Aguilar-Vargas, Fraud and Cybercrime prosecutor, holidays are perfect for crooks to develop new methods to scam people. One of their favorite methods is phone calls.
A more frequent type of scam call is when the criminal pretends to be a bank executive. "The victims are going to trust because they think the call comes from their bank," Aguilar said. This factor of trusting the other person is what makes it easier for the scammer to obtain sensitive information about the victim's bank accounts.

According to Aguilar, scammers do not make random calls, they usually study the way real bank executives work. Scammers manage to understand the terminology, guidelines and most common questions that true executives would make to banking clients. In this way, they manage to pretend to be a real bank executive and make the victim believe that the call is real.

One tip that Aguilar gives to avoid phone call scams is to understand that the normal circumstances are the people who make calls to their bank and are not the opposite. Bank executives are never going to call people to ask for sensitive bank account information.

Aguilar advises avoiding scam calls to first cut the call, then go to the bank and report that call.

On many occasions, people have already identified the bank's official phone numbers. However, advances in technology used by scammers allow them to mimic the bank phone number.

To prevent scammers from manipulating the bank phone number Aguilar recommends using the "Truecaller app". The smartphone application has features of caller-identification, call-blocking, flash-messaging, call-recording, chat & voice by using the internet. The app is available for Android.

Truecaller can identify the true number of incoming calls. If that phone number has been reported as a scam call, the app will generate an alert.

Other methods used by scammers are text messages or emails. In these cases, people should be alert and remember that no bank will request sensitive bank account data through emails or text messages.

If a person receives these messages, never respond and report to the bank directly to their customer support executives.

In the case of having been a victim of fraud, Aguilar recommends making the complaint as soon as possible to the nearest Prosecutor's Office, the Judicial Investigation Organization and the bank.

The complaint will allow investigators to locate as many traces on the victim's phone or computers, such as messages, phone numbers or email addresses. In addition, an analysis of the bank transactions to identify the scammers.

Authorities call for people to report any suspicion of fraud or scam to the confidential line 800-8000-645 or 11-76, where bilingual agents can answer calls in English or Spanish.

To avoid being a victim of robbery or crime during the holidays, the Ministry of Security launched the Christmas surveillance and security operation.

What have you heard from expats facing phone scams?
We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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