BEWARE of Telephone Scams
Every year, thousands of people lose money to telephone scams — from a few dollars to their life savings. Scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money. Some seem very friendly — calling you by your first name, making small talk, and asking about your family. They may claim to work for a company you trust, or they may send mail or place ads to convince you to call them.
If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you hadn’t planned to buy, say "No thanks." And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information — like your credit card or Social Security number — it’s likely a scam. Hang up!
Verify an Emergency
If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:
Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
Scammers Use Tricks
They impersonate your loved one convincingly. It’s surprisingly easy for a scam artist to impersonate someone. Social networking sites make it easier than ever to sleuth out personal and family information. Scammers also could hack into the e-mail account of someone you know. To make their story seem legitimate, they may involve another crook who claims to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer.
They play on your emotions. Scammers are banking on your love and concern to outweigh your skepticism. In one version of this scam, con artists impersonate grandchildren in distress to trick concerned grandparents into sending money. Sometimes, this is called a “Grandparent Scam.”
They swear you to secrecy. Con artists may insist that you keep their request for money confidential – to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. Victims of this scam often don’t realize they’ve been tricked until days later, when they speak to their actual family member or friend who knows nothing about the “emergency.” By then, the money they sent can't be recovered.
They insist that you wire money right away. Scammers pressure people into wiring money because it’s like sending cash – once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. Imposters encourage using money transfer services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been scammed.
Signs of a Scam
Often, scammers who operate by phone don’t want to give you time to think about their pitch; they just want you to say "yes." But some are so cunning that, even if you ask for more information, they seem happy to comply. They may direct you to a website or otherwise send information featuring “satisfied customers.” These customers, known as shills, are likely as fake as their praise for the company.
Here are a few red flags to help you spot telemarketing scams. If you hear a line that sounds like this, say "no, thank you," hang up!
You've been specially selected (for this offer).
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.
Join the National Do Not Call List
Register your home and mobile phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. This won’t stop all unsolicited calls, but it will stop most.
If your number is on the registry and you still get calls, they’re probably from scammers ignoring the law. Hang up, and report them at www.donotcall.gov.