by Leigh Currey Merrifield, Editor

Don’t call me … I’ll call you!

That has become my motto.  If I’m in need of a particular product or service, I’ll shop around for it on my own, and, I immediately say “no” to phone calls that try to solicit business.  I always feel like someone is trying to catch me at a weak moment, give me very little information except to say what a good deal it is … and then try to push my buttons and force or rush me to make an immediate decision without having ample time to think it over.  If it was something I really needed or wanted, would I not be looking into it on my own?

If I’m to be honest, trust comes into play here.  When it comes to telephone solicitation, plainly stated, I’m just very suspicious of those situations – and rightly so.  There is too much fraudulent activity in today’s world.  Most of us tend to have faith in humankind.  We don’t question the motivations or actions of others because we hope everyone is as honest as we are.  NOT SO today!  Some folks apparently get their kicks by duping others, and the number of scams that are reported today is proof positive.

West Virginia’s Attorney General sends LOTS of articles to media outlets that give warnings to the public about scams that are rampant, and I typically put them in the paper when space allows to keep you informed.  If you remember, a couple of months ago we printed one urging people to be wary of phone calls that ask questions, trying to get you to reply with a ‘yes’ answer.  Your conversation with them is recorded and they can insert a variety of questions in the right spot and then also insert your voice replying ‘yes’.  It can make it seem as though you have agreed to sign up for something that most likely you would not have under other circumstances.   It pays to be aware of these – as I found out recently.

When I returned from work one day recently, my mother told me she thought she might have made a big mistake.  A call came to her phone asking if she was the person who paid the Frontier bill.  She said, “No, my daughter pays it.”  Then, instead of asking if I was available, they kept asking questions – to which she finally answered ‘yes’ to one of them.  Then she remembered reading about this scam in our paper.  I scrolled through her called ID list and we wrote down the number from which this call came and the name that was attached to it.   It did NOT originate from Frontier!  We have kept it on hand just in case!

A couple of days later, she came to the bottom of my stairway and told me to come and take a call.  Again, it was someone asking if she was the person who paid the Frontier bill.  She said, “No, but hold on a minute because she is here.”  I took the phone and was asked if I was the person who paid the Frontier bill, and instead of answering with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I fired back with “Why do you want to know?”  The reply was short and sweet …. “Thank you and have a nice day!”

If there was any doubt that we might have been involved in something suspicious, I think that answered my question.  If they truly needed to speak to the person who paid the bill, when they had me on the line, why didn’t they ask me what they needed to know.  Perhaps the secret is to NOT answer them, but ask THEM a few questions instead!  For instance, are you a representative of Frontier?  What is your name?  How about I call you back?   Just some “food for thought” ………

Here is another con game that is reported in several states.  A scammer calls claiming you have failed to show up for jury duty even after receiving a summons, and a warrant for your arrest will be issued!  Naturally, the victim says he never received any such notification.  So, the “supposed” court employee then requests pertinent private information – like your SS#, birth date, etc. – and says he/she will try to correct the issue so that an arrest is not made.  Certainly, any victim would be fearful of not complying with the law and the possibility of the embarrassment of being put behind bars!  So, he reveals data that he might not ordinarily give out in order to protect himself.  BIG MISTAKE!  The courts will never contact you asking for this sort of information!

Don’t think that scammers haven’t thought of everything.  Their plans are often quite brilliant.  They realize that most people are pretty trusting human beings, and we are taught to abide by the law; we are also taught not to question someone in a position of authority.  So, very innocently, a victim is often more willing to unquestioningly divulge private information.

Here is another one that was tried recently on someone I know.  “We have detected an error in your account and you are due a sizeable refund.  If you’ll just confirm your checking account number, we’ll see that the amount is directly deposited into your account and the matter will be cleared up more promptly.”  Tell them to just send you the check!  “Show me the money” is, I think, the popular phrase!

A word to the wise … if you don’t initiate the call, DON”T give out your bank account number, Social Security number, or credit card numbers to anyone!  Carefully examine your monthly statements and immediately challenge any items you did not authorize.

Researchers are digging into the question of what makes some people fall victim to fraud and scams.  Believe it or not, MANY MILLIONS of Americans fall for some type of financial fraud every year … online dating-site deception, debt-collection scams, fake rental ads, worthless or nonexistent product sales, work-at-home schemes, and the list goes on and on.  Victims include older people and younger ones too – the educated and undereducated – white-collar and blue-collar workers – those with money and those who are poor.  Almost anyone can get stung, so don’t act impulsively.  It is a shame that “trust” has become so questionable!

This week’s dessert:  “Scams typically start with an enticement of free money, free vacations, or wealth.  If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!”  ~ Author Unknown