Recently, someone I know was scammed on the telephone. This person said to me, “But the scam was very convincing.” I replied, “Yes, that is how scams are.” They don’t ride up to you on a giant horse with SCAM painted on it, wearing a huge cowboy hat and shooting six-guns into the air.
Here are two rules that you, or anyone you know who actually answers the phone when it’s an unknown caller, can follow to lower your chances of being scammed:
1. Say, “My house is currently on fire. I’ll call you back.”
Scammers like the telephone. Even if they are riding a scamhorse, you can’t see it. Assume everyone who calls you is evil and is lying about being from the gas company or whatever. Calmly take down the caller’s personal information and check it out. If they say they are calling from an organization, take their name, HANG UP, look up the organizations phone number and call it. Ask for the person. Do not get the phone number from the mysterious caller.
2. Don’t trust people because they have information that seems secret.
Scammers will use one piece of information about you to convince you to give them the information they really want.
For example, I can find out what kind of car you have. It’s not that hard to do. Or I could guess. If I call enough people I will find someone with the right car. I have nothing else better to do, because I am a scammer.
I can then call you and say, “Hey, Mr. Dude. This is Meg from Blah, Blah, Blah Official Sounding Car Place. The warranty on your 2001 Blue Honda Civic is about to expire. This is a courtesy call; I can extend your warranty right now over the phone. Can you please confirm your address, social security number, license plate number, and date of birth?”
Or, I could call you in the middle of the night and pretend to be your grandchild and get you to wire me money. This happens. It works. Scammers are good at scamming you.
How do you keep the scammers at bay? More importantly, how do you help others avoid scams?