by Dennis Dalman
A scam call from con crooks to a Sartell man is a classic example of all the elements that constitute a telephone scam. (See related story.)
Unlike con calls that inform people they’ve won prizes, trips or inherited money, the call to Francis Gomes was one of threats, using fear as the hook.
Typically, in a threat-fear call, the con artist brings up a lightning-quick series of accusations in such an official-sounding voice the victim thinks the call must be legitimate no matter how outrageous it sounds. That was the case with Gomes. The charges took him for a loop and rocked his reasoning powers for a time.
After the accusations, in this case unpaid taxes or tax fraud, the con proceeds with threats: arrests, confiscations, bank accounts seized and more. By that time, a victim might feel as helpless as a bug pinned to a wall.
Then, the con quickly moves into what the victim can do to avoid all the nasty things that will certainly happen if he or she does not cooperate. And the “cooperation” always involves sending money by credit card, by wire or by check or money order immediately. Or else!
Fortunately, Gomes smelled the scam a couple minutes into the call. Wisely, he played along to find out more details so he could report the information.
For many years, police departments have conducted public seminars, advising people how to avoid scams via telephone, mail, in-person and on the Internet.
The following are seven vital tips everyone should memorize:
1. Never give banking information or any kind of personal information, such as credit-card numbers or Social Security numbers, to anyone who makes any kind of solicitation.
2. Remember financial institutions, the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service will never call people out of the blue with threats or to request information. Such communications will occur only through official mail.
3. If in doubt about a call, tell the person you’ll call back, then get a call-back number and check it with the bona-fide number of the place they claim to be representing, such as the IRS.
4. Most telephone crooks won’t sound like sleazy, creepy crooks. They will sound very official as if they are totally in control and know what they are talking about.
5. Beware of threats and promises. Legitimate callers will never unleash a barrage of threats nor will they make exorbitant promises – the moon and stars – if only you’ll send them that money right away.
6. If something sounds too good to be true, be assured it is, and don’t fall for it.
7. Never do business via phone unless you yourself initiate the business and know who you have just called.