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Unwelcome Calls (Don’t become the victim of a telephone scam)

Scam puzzle concept

At least a few times a week my phone rings, the call coming from a number I do not know. Sometimes they’re local calls, often times from an 800 number.  I answer the phone, and for a moment it’s dead air.  Then, frequently a recorded message starts.

The call from Lisa/Sarah/Heather/etc. is a scam.  There’s one about reducing my credit card interest rates.  One from the “police” demanding money for outstanding tickets or debts, or I risk jail time.  Another claims my car’s warranty is expiring.  Yet another proclaims I’ve won a free cruise—I’ve gotten this call so often that I ought to be able sale around the world a few times by now.  And most recently, Equifax, calling to verify my account.  Or “this and that charity” asking for donations to help with the cleanup in Texas and Florida.

All of these calls, and many, many others, are telephone scams.  Every year, thousands lose money to these scams.  Sometime only a few dollars, other times their entire life savings.  Last year, Indiana residents filed nearly 16,000 complaints about unwanted calls, yet we are still plagued with unwanted calls.  (Source: Office of the Indiana Attorney General)

Scammers might seem friendly.  They might claim to work for a company you know and trust.  But scammers lie.  They will say anything to get money from you.  Never give them your personal information—like your credit card or a Social Security number.  Don’t trust your caller ID either, they can trick it.

Signs of a Scam

It’s not hard to spot a scam, if you are wary.  Here are a few red flags that should having you hanging up immediately:

  • You’ve been specially selected
  • You’ll get a free bonus if you buy now
  • You’ve won one of # valuable prizes
  • You’ve won in a foreign lottery
  • You’ve won in a contest you never entered
  • It’s a low risk investment that provides a higher return that you can get anywhere else
  • It’s simply too good to be true
  • You have to decide right now
  • You trust me, right?
  • You don’t need to check up on our company
  • We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card
  • They ask for someone else, then when you tell them they have the wrong number they say, “Maybe you can help me”
  • Anyone telling you to pay now or you’ll go to jail (The police department and IRS will never ask for credit card numbers, pre-paid debit cards, or wire transfers over the phone)

Scammers also tend to use prizes, products, or services as bait.  Sometimes it’s a phone call, other times its mail, text messages, or ads.  Often they’re pitching one of the following:

  • Travel packages
  • Credit and loans
  • Business and investment opportunities
  • Charitable causes (disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Irma are prime opportunities for scammers!)
  • Foreign lotteries
  • Car warranties
  • “Free” trial offers
(Source: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information)

What can you do?

If you do get a call you aren’t sure about, you can ask yourself a few questions:

Are they in a hurry?  Most legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision.  If they won’t send you something in writing, let you think about a decision, or talk too fast to follow, be wary.

If it’s free, why do they need my credit card?  Free is free.  If you have to pay, if they’ve asked for your credit card, a check, or any kind of reimbursement, it’s not free.

What time is it?  The law only allows telemarketers to call between 8 am and 9 pm.

Who are they?  By law, telemarkers are required to tell you—at the beginning of the call—that it is a sales call, the name of the seller, what they are selling.  If you don’t hear this, say no and hang up.

Why are you “confirming” your account information—or giving it out?  Some scammers already have your billing information before they call.  They’re just trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.

And remember, if you are on the National Do Not Call Registry, they’re breaking the law by calling you in the first place.  Especially in Indiana, there are strict rules around telemarketing.  We even have our own Do Not Call Registration.  Heck, pharmacies in the state aren’t even allowed to call you to prompt a refill of your prescription because it violates the state restrictions.

Still, the calls will come.  If you get an automated call and you hear a recorded message instead of a live person, hang up.  Don’t try to get a live operator or press any keys.  Even if you are trying to get them to stop calling, waiting to get a real live person on the phone will likely net you more calls, not less.

Yes, the calls are frustrating, but if you ignore them that specific call will go away.  Eventually.  If the calls have you stressed, and you don’t recognize the number, let it go to voicemail.  If it’s a legitimate call, they’ll leave a message.  If it isn’t, they won’t.

You can also visit the Scam Alerts page of the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site here https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.  They list the most recent scams.  You can also report the annoying calls to them.

And as always, if you have any doubt, hang up.  It’s simply not worth the risk.

If you have questions or comments about this article, please call us at 1-317-875-0202 or message us with our contact us form.

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