Phone Scams

Few things are more irritating than having a scammer call and waste your time. Some of these calls are not actual scams but many of them are rip-offs. Even if you don’t fall for these the scammers can still get valuable information from you (even if you don’t give them any). Here are a few of phone scams going around:

  • General Ripoffs where someone is trying to sell you something. Often they require you to make a snap decision to get their “fantasic deal.”
  • Charity Calls where the main beneficiary of the charity is the company making the phone calls.
  • Investment companies that have some “fanatastic” opportunity.
  • Government Agencies (IRS, police, etc.) where you are supposedly in BIG trouble.
  • Bank or Credit Card scams including reports of fraudulent activities.

I admit that I have occasionally had fun at the expense of the scammers. Most of the time I just say, “Thank you, I am not interested” and hang-up. Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with people on the phone.

If someone calls and says they are from a bank, credit card company, or government agency then lookup the number from a valid source and call them. Scammers can call about “fraudulent” charges on your account to try to gain access to your real account. If you are told that there is a problem with your account call the financial company directly (on a verified number) to verify the problem.

Be Careful What You Say

Scammers can get pretty sophisticated in the art of scumbaggery. Some legitimate automated phone systems use voice recognition to verify your identity. Scammer can record your voice and potentially use that recording to gain access to real systems. Answers such as “yes”, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. can be used against you. A scammer may call and ask something like, “Is this Joe Schwartzwalter?” Do not answer with “yes” but with something like, “It is,” “fur shure”, “affirmative,” etc. Those answers are much less useful to the scammer. NEVER verify numbers such as birth date, mother’s maiden name, etc. unless you initiated the call and verified the number.

Charity Calls

I often get calls soliciting donations for different organizations. The caller claims that donations go to help police, veterans, fire fighters, etc. They often give you no choice but might say, “So, you agree that veterans need our help. So, I will send an envelope with a $50 pledge since I know we can count on you to help our vets.” They often do not allow you to say YES or NO but they assume that you will give. You can either hang-up immediately or redirect the conversation. I usually use the latter because I am trying to guilt the solicitor to re-think their actions.

When they ask if I support the recipients (police, fire fighters, vets, etc.) I do not say YES or NO. I might say, “Yes, I support them but I do not support organizations that use them for their own profit. How much of the money collected goes to the actual recipients?” At this point they have been knocked off-guard. Some will give a number and often that number is between 3% and 17% (normally 5-7% goes to the charity). I state that it is immoral for the fund raising company to keep most of the money that they collect on behalf of a worthwhile cause. Some solicitors refuse to provide a percentage which probably means that they do not want you to know.

There are websites where you research charities to find their expense ratios. A good charity will have overhead of 40% or less. There are some excellent charities were 90% or more of your donation goes to the actual need. I will not donate to any charity where most of the money goes to the solicitation company.

Solicitation Scripts

The telemarketers often use sales scripts that contain comebacks to your responses. If you find yourself stuck talking to a telemarketer (perhaps for your own amusement) then try giving answers that are completely off their script. I did this once and the telemarketer (literally) did not know what to say and there was dead silence on the line. Another time a telemarketer was pushing risky investments. He asked if traded futures and I said NO. He asked why and I responded, “Because I am not stupid. If I wanted to get into pure gambling then I would just go to Vegas.”