You are sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee when the telephone rings. Almost by instinct, you answer it. The chances are high that it is not someone you know. More likely, this is some sort of telephone scam.
Telephone scams occur year around. Some originate from within the United States. Other calls are made from foreign countries. The callers are using computer generated lists of phone numbers to contact potential victims. They don’t know you or care about you. Their motive is to separate you from your money or personal information such as your credit card number or Social Security number.
In recent years, scammers have utilized phone calls to unsuspecting individuals to try to get access to personal computers. Their goal is to take over your computer so they can make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable. They may ask for your credit card number so they can bill you for phony services or things you could get elsewhere for free. They may try to trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data such as user names and passwords. These scams are described in detail in another article on this blog called “COMPUTER TECH SUPPORT SCAMS.”
Perhaps you have received a call from a man who tells you that your son has been arrested in Rockford and needs bail money. He wants you to send $500 to Rockford by Western Union. However, your son is sitting in your house watching television. Another scam!
There’s a scam called the Grandparent Scam. A con artist, pretending to be a grandchild of the victim, calls the grandparent. The “grandchild” says he desperately needs money or he’ll be evicted. He asks the grandparent to wire transfer money.
Have you ever received a phone call from someone who tells you that you have won one of five valuable prizes? The caller will put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card. All you have to do is give the caller your credit card number. Another phone scam! Never give your credit card number to a stranger who calls you.
Perhaps you have received a call offering you a “free” or “low cost” vacation. These “free” vacations may have hidden costs or may never take place, even after you have paid.
Be careful about calls for charitable causes such as urgent disaster relief. This is a common scam. If you want to donate, call a recognized organization such as the Red Cross.
Many times you will answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person. This is a robocall. Recorded messages that are trying to sell you something are illegal unless you have given the company permission to call you. Hang up! If you respond by pressing any number, you may get even more robocalls.
So, what’s the worst telephone scam? You decide. Avoid these and other phone scams by registering your home and cell phone numbers with the Do Not Call Registry online or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
—By Karen Centowski