Telephone scam calls by scoundrels seem to come in waves, like contagions of the plague.
Just in the past week or so, residents in Sartell and St. Joseph have reported attempts by phone crooks to weasel money out of them or to steal personal financial information.
The scams can range from misleading trick calls to blatant threats, almost as bad as a robber sticking a gun in your face and demanding your money.
The misleading trick calls amount to sly ways to get you to answer your phone. For example, on your caller I.D. it might say “John Johnson” (along with his phone number). Since John Johnson is a spouse, friend or relative, the caller will pick up the phone, and a voice will ask: “Do you want to lower your credit-card rate?” These hucksters use a wide variety of actual names, companies and numbers to get people to answer their pitch calls. Among the ones people have reported are the St. Cloud VA Hospital and Red Lobster. Neither of those two places has anything to do with these “spoof calls,” as they’re dubbed. Using people’s or business numbers to get people to answer their phones is clearly fraudulent, but it’s difficult to pin down these pests to make them stop doing it.
Another type of scam call, much more serious, purports to be from the federal Internal Revenue Service. The creep tells the caller he or she will be arrested within a matter of hours, that agents and police are about to storm their home, unless the person gets the money owed and pays it via credit or debit card over the phone or sends a bank draft immediately. Most who answer these calls are baffled, knowing they don’t owe the IRS any taxes, but they are also fearful because the threats sound so serious and frightening. Most people, taken so aback, stay on the line, trying to convince the caller they do not owe money, and some – in the process – might give personal financial information away in an effort to clear up the matter. Of course, these vicious cons are all ears, eager to get any money or financial-personal information they can squeeze out of the caller.
The theft of personal information, the theft of money, is on the increase by these unscrupulous jerks, via phone and via Internet. It’s more important than ever for all people to learn about these types of devious thievery and how to prevent it.
Here are some general tips all people should emblazon on their brains:
• Never ever give out personal information of any sort to unsolicited offers via phone or Internet.
• Remember that financial institutions and the IRS never make phone calls demanding money or personal information.
• Unless you yourself initiate transactions with people or businesses you know and trust, don’t fall prey to calls or offers out of the blue.
• Keep a record of all your financial information in a safe place, and do not carry credit cards or debit cards in a purse or wallet. Try to keep them in a pocket on your person. Take credit cards with you only when needed. Then when you get home, put them in a secure place until the next time you need them.
• Be skeptical, with your common sense turned up at all times: If any offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information on how to avoid being “took,” there are many good websites to peruse. Just google “Tips to avoid being scammed,” and you will see many of them. Take notes, remember what you learn and then put that knowledge into action. Knowledge is power, especially when dealing with those sneaky, devious scammers who prey upon good, trusting people.