There are as many variations of phone scams as there are scammers. In some countries college educated men sit in shops making scam calls because there are no other jobs. Nigeria even has a criminal code for their actions. These scammers do this for a living. They know way more about your psychology than you do about theirs. They are professionals, often sitting in a room with even more scammers they can share numbers with and who will happily call you back if you seem like good target. The money is good, so why would they stop?
So, here are four of the many times you should protect yourself.
1. The phone rings, the number looks familiar. Maybe. You answer and a voice says, “Hi this is Dawn, calling from a recorded line. Can you hear me?”
You are a polite person, and the “recorded line” sounds so official. You want to be helpful. Never say “Yes.” Scammers love to record your answer and use it to verbally authorize services and purchases that have been made in your name. Just hang up.
2. You get a robo call message from the IRS telling you that you must immediately pay an overdue tax due bill, or risk criminal proceedings and imprisonment. Hang up. The IRS never, ever calls you. If they want to reach you, it will always be by mail. If you listened to the whole message, forget about it and never call the number back.
3. It’s 2:00 a.m., and you wake to your ringing phone. An upset young man’s voice says “Grandpa”? (The scammers assume that all seniors have grandchildren.)
You say, “Jason, are you OK”? (You just told the scammer Jason’s name, which they’ll use to reassure you it’s him) You were jarred awake and disoriented.
“Yes, it’s me Jason! I’m in trouble!” ‘Jason’ says he went to New York City with friends and they got arrested for partying a little too much. It’s a misunderstanding. He doesn’t have money to pay for the fine and stay out of jail. Please don’t tell anyone! Now you’re emotional and scared. He tells you he just needs your credit card number. It’s expensive, but you love him, and jail in NYC sounds a little extreme. So you follow his directions.
Or, you hang up and call Jason’s cell phone and find he’s safe at home in Cleveland.
4. You get a call that is obviously a scam. You decide to play a little and waste their time. It’s not worth it. They have all day and are likely to teach you some new profanities before you hang up. It will not give you the satisfaction you’re hoping for.
Seniors tend to be nice, polite and often too trusting. Being a good, kind person can make you a bigger target. Maybe it’s time to remember a time when you had to be home when the phone rang, and you only answered it if you wanted to. So practice not answering, not speaking, hanging up, not calling back and maintaining a good healthy suspicion.