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Five Popular Phone Scams
Everyone is familiar with the phone call that comes right at dinner time or as you are trying to get out the door to an appointment. Those calls are always annoying. But they also can be scams.
Many phone scams are similar to common email scams; they offer you something for nothing, they ask for your help for a worthy cause, they tell you that you are in some kind of trouble, or they promise you will make a lot of money if you just provide some indentifying and financial information. Then they take that information and steal your identity, drain your bank account or run up big charges on your credit card.
In general, you should never give out personal or financial information over the phone to anyone unless you have initiated the call and are certain of the identity of the person on the other end of the line. Anyone else could be a scammer.
The technology website Tecca lists five phone scams that are making the rounds.
1. Charity fundraiser. You answer the phone, and the caller says he is from an authentic-sounding charity. He gives you a sob story about helping sick children or abandoned pets or people hit by a natural disaster. He also might offer some kind of prize if you make an immediate donation by providing him with your credit card number. But of course, the only charitable contribution you make will be to the scammer’s bank account.
Never donate money over the phone by credit card. Instead, ask the caller to give you the address for a website or to send you printed material. And always check out a charity fully before you send money.
2. Legal problems. The caller tells you that you have an unpaid fine for some traffic violation such as being caught on-camera speeding or running a red light. Then she says that a warrant will be issued for your arrest if you do not pay the fine immediately by giving her your credit card number as well as some additional identification such as your Social Security number.
In a similar scam, the caller says that she is from a debt collection agency and you will be arrested if you don’t immediately make an overdue payment on a loan. Don’t do it. Instead, ask her for a phone number you can call back or a physical address you can visit. Chances are, she will end the call.
3. You’re a winner. In this scam, the caller tells you that you have won a major prize such as a car or a trip. However, you need to prove that you are really the winner by giving the caller information such as your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Sometimes you also have to provide credit card information to pay for shipping the prize to you. But of course, there is no prize.
4. Working at home. The caller offers you what sounds like a tremendous opportunity to make lots of money working at home. All you have to do is provide your credit card number so they can ship you the materials you need to get started. But the only person getting rich here is the scammer.
5. Bank problems. You get a call from someone who says she works at your bank and your credit card or your bank account has been suspended. In order to reactivate it, you need to provide identifying information such as your card or account number, your Social Security number, etc. You might even get an automated call or voicemail message asking you to call a different number, at which time you will be asked to provide this information. Don’t do it.