Sunday, June 14, 2015

Scammer Red Flags

I don't know what it is about the generation before me that makes them so trusting, or why they refuse to adapt to the brutal realities of the current world. I must say I find their naivety extremely frustrating. Times have changed. Period. 

Gas is no longer one dollar. Paid internships and apprenticeships no longer exist. One cannot simply walk into a local business and walk back out with a job. Everything is done online, and computers/smartphones are essential to our c. (I promise we're not just forwarding funny emails and playing games.) Most importantly, we can no longer trust people to be who they say they are, especially on the phone.

I cannot count how many times I've watched my mother in law take calls from supposed "collectors" and believe every word they say, and no matter how many time my husband and I tell her these people are not real and to hang up, she insists on continuing to argue with them. We continually tell her what red flags to look for. We beg her not to answer calls from toll free numbers. I have even come to the point where I unplug the phone line in the middle of these calls just to get her to stop talking to them. Today I had to yell at her to keep from giving a caller her social security number.

She doesn't understand we are trying to protect her from destroying herself. She doesn't understand that there are people out there she cannot trust. She may never understand, no matter how hard we try to reason with her.

In spite of this particular hopeless case, I hope to use this experience to educate as many people as possible. So I have compiled a list of red flags to consider should a questionable call come your way.

1. You've received no bill in the mail. This is the number one sign that you are dealing with a scammer. Legitimate creditors always send bills in the mail. Hardly ever do they simply call with a balance. If you receive a collection call without at least having received a bill, DO NOT give them any information. DO NOT give them your credit card. Simply ask them to send a bill in the mail and hang up. Then, check your credit score. If the bill they claim is not listed, then you know you were dealing with a scammer.

2. They ask for sensitive information. In my experience, legitimate creditors only ask for three things: phone number, address, and credit card number. Under no circumstances is it appropriate to give them anything further, especially your social security number. In fact, you should never give your social security number to anyone unless absolutely necessary. As a child I was raised never to write on any forms, use online, or even carry my card on my person. Instead, I committed to memory. It has remained in my memory ever since. Your social security number is extremely sensitive. It is more important than your name and birth date put together. I cannot stress this enough. Never ever give it to a caller. If they ask for it, say NO. If they insist, hang up.

3. They deny knowledge of any fact to the contrary. It is always good to ask questions and demand details. If they lack crucial information, chances are they are not legitimate. Twice, scammers have called the store where I work attempting to collect on an unpaid electricity bill and threaten to turn off the lights. Fortunately, I know my business better than to fall for such nonsense. They didn't even know my boss' name. When I challenge them, they always respond with "All I know is..." Tsk. Tsk. A real call center should fire someone so ignorant. These people rely on the possibility that you don't know the details of your credit and your business. They count on you to panic. You must know yourself, know your credit, know every in and out of your business. The more you know, the less likely you will fall for a scam.

4. They're pushy and rude. More than that, they feed off of conflict. The longer you are willing to stay on the phone and argue, the more they fight you for your money/information. And the more likely they are to get something useful out of you. Do yourself and your self respect a favor, and HANG UP. There is no shame in hanging up on abusive conversations. Be strong.

Leviticus 19:11 tells us, "Do not deceive or cheat one another." (NLT)

There are few things in this world that boil my blood as much as a scammer. People who would rather spend their time lying and cheating hard working people than to make an honest living for themselves. It takes a special kind of sociopath to justify doing this everyday and sleep at night. 

Please, please, please, head my warning and protect yourselves from this rampant problem. 

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