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Money November 2012

Dollar Sense

Your Caller ID May be Scamming You

By Teresa Ambord

Banks and other financial institutions do not place recorded calls, offering to lower your interest rate or change the terms of your account. Your best bet is not to answer. If you do answer, do not follow the instructions to push any buttons. If they leave a message asking for a call back, just delete the message.

Has this happened to you? The phone rings, you look at the caller ID and it says “Card Services,” or something similar. You think one of your credit card companies might be trying to reach you so you pick up. You should know, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that thieves use a name that is generic enough to make people think their own credit card companies are trying to reach them.

Thieves are counting on us to be afraid that we might’ve missed a payment or that there is some urgency that requires a phone call. If you return their call, or if you pick up and follow their directions to press this key or that, you could be talking to thieves who will gladly steal every penny if you give them the right information.

Basically, says the FTC, they’ve received complaints regarding two crime rings. One operates with the apparent goal of stealing your identity. The others represent themselves as debt assistance agencies.

Identity Thieves

People are being bombarded with scam telephone calls that promise to help lower their credit card interest rates. The recorded calls purport to come from nondescript entities such as “Card Services,” “Cardholder Services,” etc. Due to the nondescript identification of the caller, some people may believe that the calls are from their credit card company. When people return the calls or press their keypad as directed, however, they may be contacting debt assistance scam artists or identity theft crime rings.

They attempt to gain your trust by telling you they are associated with a bank, or with your own credit card company. In fact, many consumers may remember that they used to send credit card payments to a place called “Card Services,” so it would be an easy leap for them to believe it is their card company contacting them. If they can gain your trust or at least frighten you, they will ask questions designed to get you to reveal personal identifying information. Or they may claim to be from a bank and they may say they can lower your interest rate. In order to do that, they say they must verify your bank information so they can negotiate on your behalf for better terms on your credit cards. They add urgency by telling you this offer is for a limited time and therefore you must decide immediately.

Bogus Debt Assistance Agencies

The other crime ring that the FTC warns of is a debt assistance scam. With so many people over their heads in debt, callers make random unsolicited calls offering to help you lower your interest rates. Sometimes your caller ID will actually say “Lower Interest.” Who doesn’t want to pay lower interest on their debts? But for the services they promise, these scammers require consumers to pay $2,000 or more up front. Of course, there is no service, and those who trusted the scammers are even deeper in debt.

Spoofed Phone Numbers

As usual, thieves are working every angle to steal your money. They’ve taken many of today’s conveniences, like caller ID, and found a way to use them for thievery. Remember when it was comforting to check your caller ID and know who was on the other end of the line? These days scammers create fake IDs in the hope of getting you to trust them. Because of the fake IDs, it may no longer work to hit *69, which is supposed to call back the last number that called you, or *57 which is supposed to trace a call.

What should you do?

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot you can do, except exercise extreme caution. The FTC wants you to remember

  • Banks and other financial institutions do not place recorded calls, offering to lower your interest rate or change the terms of your account. Your best bet is not to answer. If you do answer, do not follow the instructions to push any buttons. If they leave a message asking for a call back, just delete the message.
  • Do not ask them to take you off their call list. They won’t. The recorded message may offer the option of pressing a button on your keypad to be placed on the do-not-call list, but the FTC warns in the end, you’ll get more nuisance calls.
  • Do not press a key to speak to a live operator or any other option – again, the result will likely be more calls.
  • While it is true there is a law that is meant to prohibit companies from calling people whose names are on a do–not-call list, keep in mind, these are thieves and as thieves, they are already flouting the law.
  • If you get unwanted recorded calls you can contact the FTC at 1-888-382-1222 or online at www.donotcall.gov.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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