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Avoiding Current Phone Scams

Many people trust phone calls, espescially if the person on the other side of the line knows even a small piece of information. Like email, phishing attempts can yield surprising results. Other fraud takes the form of involuntary commitment and contract approval. Most of the time I call my credit card company I feel like they are trying to high pressure sell me into buying their identity protection service.

That’s not to say there aren’t valid ways companies using telephones to contact prospects and customers. Keep in mind that phone companies sell your phone number to telemarketers. We set up a land line for the first time in years. Once we had a dial tone, and before anybody knew our phone number, we were getting telemarketers calling within the hours. The calls came frequently until we added our name to the do not call list.

Identifying Fraud
Never give out your credit card number on the phone.
Fraud on the phone usually are after one thing, your credit card number. They will use a number of techniques to extract this number for you. One tactic involves postcards and letters that indicate you’ve won a prize. When you call the 800 or 900 number you will be asked for your credit card number to claim your prize. Once they have your credit card number it goes down from there. Now that they have your credit card they have all the power and will use all kinds of pressure to close the sale. If you do end up buying something there is a good chance you’ll never receive it. If you do receive the product it will be extremely poor quality. The worst part is that the scammers have your credit card number and will likely change you multiple times. How can you avoid this problem?

Always Ask for written Information before you agree to anything.

The quickest way to shut down a scam is to ask them to send you some written information. If they are a legitimate charity or company they likely have whole departments that can fulfill your request. Scammers and high-pressure salesmen hate when you request things in writing. When things are in writing you can make sound decisions, which isn’t what they want.

If you suspect something fishy, get off the phone right away.
Be polite but assertive. If something doesn’t feel right about the call tell them no thank you (maybe a couple times) and get off the phone.

Call them back
If your bank or credit card calls you and asks for your credit card number or social security number tell them you’ll need to call them back. The the actuall customer service number from their website, phone book, or back of your credit card and call them back. Most financial institutions wont ask for your social (unless you’ve called them and have forgotten your account number). They won’t ask you for your credit card number out of the blue either.

Don’t tell them anything
Don’t tell them anything they should already know. If it’s your credit card company they should have everything in front of them. The exception to this rule is if you called them.

Avoid High Pressure Sells
If you feel you’re getting any type of pressure remember you have control. If you use a free phone service like Google voice you can send the sales calls to the disconnected message.

The Most Common Types of Scams

You’ve won a deluxe vaction!
These involve a combination of mail and phone fraud. First you will receive a letter saying you have won a vacation but you need to be a member to claim the prize. You’ll have to join with your credit card. Once they have you’re credit card… I think you know the rest.

Help us catch a bank scammer
This scam involves someone posing as a bank security examiner. They’ll ask you to withdraw some money and give it to someone that comes to your home. The persons job is to re-deposit it into your bank account. Once they have your cash…I think you know the rest.

Only smart investors are buying
…and if you’re smart, you’ll be buying too. Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to these types of scams. Most likely there will be a ‘window of opportunity’ or ‘extremly limited time’ to take advantage of the investment. The investment will be described as a ‘sure thing’ with returns well in excess of normal returns. Remember, excess profits come with excess risk. Some of these scams can go on for months before the scammer leaves town. Other times these scams can be ‘fly by night’ operations that hit and run. If something is too good to be true, it always is.

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
Con artists will offer you a very low price on the magazine or newspaper subscription if you buy today with your credit card. Use one of the tactics described above and tell them to get a real job.

Hopefully this helps you avoid any future scams. If you feel you’ve been defrauded contact the following:

When investigating potential frauds, you should contact several of the following:

AARP (American Association for Retired Persons)
1909 K Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20049
(800) 424-3410

The Federal Trade Commission
Bureau of Consumer Protection
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
(877) FTC-HELP

If you know of any more please leave a comment below.

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A huge bank, Citibank, has been duped by a Nigerian scam. Citibank tried dozens of times to get the money to the Nigerian scammer’s bank accounts. The scheme fell apart when the receiving banks couldn’t complete the transfer. The package the documents came in were post marked coming from Nigeria (not Ethiopia like the scammer claimed).

When Citibank can be tricked it makes the general public seem like easy picking. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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