DID YOU READ THE SMALL PRINT?
We also receive in the mail (or it’s written in fine print somewhere on the application form) disclosure notices which inform us how our private information is shared. Federal law allows consumers the ability to limit some, but not all, sharing. To invoke the limitations, you must opt out by signing the documents and sending them back to the entity that sent them.
Do you read the small print? Do you sign and mail off the disclosure forms every year for every credit card, financial institution, vendor, etc. providing the option? I don’t. My information is out there already. What’s the point of opting out now?
o, my information is shared. The consequences, whether you opt out or not, seem to be a deluge of unwanted telephone calls from telemarketers, from business doing construction or something else in your neighborhood and want to drop by, from charities, from politicians, from everyone pursuing a cause and, most dangerous of all, from scammers.
Occasionally, we get phone calls from people we know or do business with.
The Federal Trade Commission tells us that robocalls -- automated telephone calls that deliver a recorded message, typically on behalf of a political party or telemarketing company – are the number one complaint they receive. In 2017 alone there were 7,157,370 complaints filed against robocallers and telemarketers. And how many of us have never filed a complaint? A zillion?
While telemarketing is legal, scamming is not. There are a number of ways to protect yourself. Remember, both the telemarketer and the scammer – regardless of the type of scam -- wants you to pick up the phone and talk, and they don’t want to give you time to think. The FTC suggests you just not answer. If you do, here is some advice.
●Don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize.
●Don’t give away financial and sensitive personal information (address, date of birth, bank information, ID numbers, passwords, mother’s maiden name, etc.) over the phone, and be careful when and where you do give it when you do.
●Don’t confirm this type of information even if the unknown caller has it.
●Don’t believe your caller ID: Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
●Don’t talk. If you suspect a scam, Hang up. Anything you say to a telemarketer, including legitimate ones -- that is, not a scam -- will end up written down in your file. Telemarketers uses the "Three Nos" rule: don't let the customer go until they have said "no" three times during the phone call.
●Don’t say the word “Yes.”
●Listen for key phrases to spot scammers.
●Be cautious about where and to whom your phone number is available. Not a good idea on social media.
●Turn the tables. Ask the caller for more information, do some research, and call them back. If they’re reluctant to comply, they’re likely trying to scam you.
●Don’t call back. Even though you want to find out who it is and bust their balls. You could still be giving them information they want.
●Check your bank and credit card statements regularly, especially after getting a suspicious call.
● Don’t send money anywhere for an emergency situation, unless you have verified the situation and the solicitor.
● Don’t send money by prepaid card or wire transfer (which are difficult to track) to someone you don’t know.
●Check out charities before you contribute, and don’t make commitments over the phone. Even the legitimate ones will pressure you, often into making a larger contribution than you want to give.
● Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
Now days many people do order merchandise and services over the phone. There are ways in which you can protect yourself from scams for this, but they are different than calls coming to your phone uninvited. In this case, you are calling, or have called, them and should have some reason to believe you are calling a legitimate business.
●Be skeptical about free trial offers: Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
●Ask about shipping and handling costs before you commit to a purchase.
●Don’t let yourself be rushed.
●Don’t pay upfront for a promise: Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.
●Consider how you pay: Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
●Talk to someone you trust: Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
The first three types of scams listed below are most common telephone scams, but there are many others you ought to be aware of.
This is one of the most common scams and usually targets the elderly. The “campaign” begins around tax time. You’ll receive a phone call from the “IRS” telling you that you’re receiving your final notice for money owed. If you do not pay this money you’re threatened with jail time, huge fines, or deportation. Sometimes they ask for personal information, including your SSI number. These scammers know people fear the IRS and hope that their impulse is to call the fake number back and rectify the situation.
This scam is growing rapidly and targets those who are not computer savvy. You’ll get a call pretending to be Microsoft Support, and they will inform you that your computer is compromised and you need to download special software to protect yourself. The caller conveniently needs your credit card information through this scenario.
To prove it, the caller might ask you to check your Windows event log viewer, which is likely to contain thousands of records about various errors, most or all of which are actually nothing to worry about. If you bite, the caller then asks you to log onto a Web service that lets him or her take control of your computer. The goal of this phone scam is to install malware that can steal your personal information or trick you into enrolling in phony computer maintenance or warranty programs.
Here, the callers claims you have won a “Free” or “low cost” vacation and other sweepstakes prize. "Free" can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs. Usually, they are just a prompt to receive personal information such as home address or even credit card information. Never give personal information to these callers, especially over the phone.
The bait is that you’re being offered free money from the government, just because you’ve been a good citizen, or you’ve qualified to receive a “free grant” to pay for education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, or unpaid bills. The catch with this phone scam is that you must pay a “processing fee” of $150 to $700 to receive the grant. Or scammers ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account”—and then clean out your account.
By the way, the caller might he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration.” There is no such government agency. This scam works in part because the legitimate agencies, offering government programs, calls in the same manner and often says nearly the same thing.
Scam artists spend hours calling the customer service centers of banks, insurance companies and other institutions, posing as people like you, to try to access accounts. “That’s because reps only ask a couple of simple authentication questions — maybe your mother’s maiden name or your Social Security number — before you can transfer money or do whatever,” explains Ken Shuman of Pindrop, a company that provides antifraud services to call centers.
Scammers start by assembling information on you, stolen in data breaches, purchased on the “dark web” or gleaned with a simple Google search. Then they spend all day phoning different call centers to determine if you have accounts with those companies. With your data in hand, they can often answer the authentication questions that call centers ask.
● Smartphone Swindles (Smishing)
20 billion text messages sent each day are attempts at fraud through the use of “smishing” (a combination of the SMS technology that sends text messages and phishing, a ploy to coax confidential information out of you). Typically, a scam texter will fake a problem with one of your financial accounts and ask you for data. Or they might pitch low-cost mortgages or credit cards, or promise free gift cards. If you respond by texting back confidential personal information, your identity may be stolen. Millions of these smishing texts can be launched simultaneously.
Remember, the scammer wants you to pick up. Your area code and prefix are displayed, so the call appears to be from a neighbor or nearby business. “Fewer people are comfortable blocking local numbers, increasing scammers’ success rates,” notes Jonathan Nelson of Hiya. Fake number are hard for law enforcement to track.
In this scam, the scammer can simulate your own phone number on your caller ID. Curiosity, if nothing else, may cause you to answer. These scammers can maneuver around any call blocking that you’ve set up.
● The one-ring rip-off
In this case criminals program auto-dialers to make repeated calls to you, each disconnecting after just one ring. The intention is to make you so frustrated that you call back the displayed number to find out who it is. Things get worse if you call area codes, such as 268, 664 and 876, which are for Caribbean countries and other places with have high per-minute phone charges. One scam involves getting you to call one of those numbers, then getting you to hold through transfers that rack up your bill until a scammer gets on the line and starts a fraudulent pitch.
Some loans are borderline scams in the first place, so it’s almost no surprise that they’d also be used as a cover for phone scams. Advance fee loans, payday loans, credit card protection and offers to lower your credit card interest rates are some of the popular scams. The goal of the scammer is to harvest your information over the phone.
Debt collector scams are fairly popular because the high rate of debt in our economy. The best thing to do is to ask for the caller’s information, including company name, and to call them back. Also, take note that if you send a written letter to a debt collector asking them to stop calling you, they are legally required to do so according to most of my references.
As we’ve mentioned, it’s not a smart idea to give out credit card information over the telephone. But, what about just snippets of information? Though it may seem harmless, even giving out the three-digit security code on the back of your credit card (also known as the CVV number) can lead to being scammed. The scammer can disguise themselves as a bank employee, even giving out a fake employee badge number. Make sure to never give out that CVV number, no matter what they say.
Whether it’s the DEA, FBI, sheriff, or local police department, warrant scams are designed to make victims panic and then give up their personal information over the phone. The scammer will often state that you’ve missed jury duty or perhaps defrauded a bank, and attempt to get payment information. However, law enforcement demanding money is just something that does not happen legally over the phone. Remember that.
If you’ve ever dealt with health care, you probably know how difficult it is to dispute a hospital bill, causing people to fall for medically related telephone scams. Sometimes the scammer will demand payment on an “unpaid” bill, while other times the scam will offer discounted or free medical services. Unfortunately, these types of scams tend to target the elderly, who have to deal with health care much more than younger people.
As with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Getting a call out of the blue that you’ve just won the lottery is a pretty big stretch. Add in that it’s a lottery in a foreign country, and things begin to sound fishy. When someone asks for your credit card information over the phone, that’s as good a sign as any that the whole thing is a sham. After all, how many lotteries have you heard of that give out winnings to people who haven’t bought a ticket?
Although many of these scams come by e-mail, some are by telephone. I got taken by one of these. Mine was one of the standards: a call from a frantic grandchild who is in difficulty (arrested, in a car accident, or something they need money for immediately). In my case the caller knew my grandson’s name, which took me off balance, and I believed him. I did get my money back, but I was so lucky.
The scams encourage recipients to send money or account information to the person supposedly "stuck" in a foreign country, or similarly in need. These calls appear to come from someone the recipient knows -- either a familiar name, or a familiar address, scrounged from a hacked account or from publicly visible information on social networking sites. Don’t send money, no matter who they claim to be, and check out the information.
It’s a sad state of affairs when requests for recent disaster relief contributions are often scams, and they are common over the phone. If you want to contribute, you should call the charity. News Channels on TV usually tell you how to make a donation.
Scammers find out what kind of car you drive, and when you bought it so they can urge you to buy overpriced — or worthless — plans.
SPOTTING THE SCAM
Sometimes it’s not easy to tell the difference between a scam call and a real one. Informing yourself is most important. The following is advice given by all of the sources I reviewed.
● A real company will not call you out of the blue and ask for personal information.
● If a caller asks “What number did I call?”, you ask “What number did you dial?”
● If a caller asks “Is this Mr. Brown?” answer with the word “speaking”, not “yes.”
● The IRS will never contact you by phone; they will send a letter, probably a certified one.
● Technical Support will never call you first about technical problems. You have to call them.
● Companies like Microsoft have other ways of contacting you and would never call on the phone.
Watch out for the following phrases. If you hear a line that sounds similar, the FTC recommends you say "no, thank you," and hang up. Never respond with “Yes”. That can be manipulated to make it sound like you agreed to something.
● "You'll get a free bonus if you buy our product."
● "You've won one of five valuable prizes."
● "You've won big money in a foreign lottery."
● "This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else."
● "You have to make up your mind right away."
● "You trust me, right?"
● "You don't need to check our company with anyone."
● "We'll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card."
● “Can you hear me?” or “Are you the lady of the house?”
● “We’re working in your neighborhood, and you’ve been selected for a free paint job.”
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
●Join the National “Do Not Call” List
Register your home and mobile phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. It won’t stop unsolicited calls, but it will stop most. Ones that still come, you should report to the Registry. http://www.donotcall.gov
●File a complaint with the FTC
Report your experience to the FTC online https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1 or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
●Download a Spam Blocking App
A good way to block calls on both land lines and cell phones is to use Google Voice https://voice.google.com/about. You have the option of sending them directly to voicemail, treating all their calls as spam, or blocking them entirely. If you don't have a Google Voice account and you live in the US, you can sign up at
●Post offenders on Community Call
800Notes is a free Reverse Phone Number Lookup database built by its users. Our strength is in our numbers - by sharing pieces of information each of us has we are putting together a free and public phone number directory with information no other service can provide. https://800notes.com/
▪ Find out who is calling and why. Look up and read previous report by other users.
▪Report telemarketing calls
▪Report telephone fraud
▪Check out a business
ThisCaller.com helps you ind unknown caller information by using free reverse phone lookup.
USCallers.com USCallers.com is a free, reverse phone lookup service for both cell and landline
phone numbers. https://alternativeto.net/software/uscallers/ This site can direct you to other sites for
looking up telemarketing and scam callers.
●Sign up for Scam Alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
● Contact your cable or internet service
Many companies, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have introduced services that alert you an incoming robocall may be from a scammer or spammer. In some cases, such services are free, but for a few dollars more per month you can get a more robust version that can block the robocalls from ringing on your phone.
https://mbtskoudsalg.com/explore/phone-clipart-guy/ (free clip art)