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Thursday, March 31, 2011

How To Protect Yourself Against Telephone Scams | Personal and Business

Your telephone rings. Your first instinct is to answer it. But you check the Caller ID and it's an unfamiliar number. Do you answer it or not? More than likely, it is someone trying to sell you something; or worse - trying to scam you. Below are tips on how to protect yourself against telephone scams.

Your first defense is to drastically reduce the number of calls you get. This is simple and easy. You sign up on the National Do Not Call Registry.

By getting on the Do Not Call list, you will eliminate about 90-95% of calls from solicitors. However, if you are on lists like school alumni lists or charitable organization lists or on lists from companies you have done business with, the DNC list won't put a stop to those calls.

Simply blowing off numbers that begin with "800" "877" "866" etc. might not be the best thing to do, especially if you are trying to finance a home, resolve a credit card dispute or have issues with your bank.

I had a situation where I was trying to negotiate with my bank on my mortgage, so it was not in my best interest to send the "8XX" calls to voice mail. They don't always leave a message and you could be creating a bigger problem than you want.

So, let's say you answer the call. There are a number of popular scams that you need to be aware of:
  • Credit Card Scams - These people say they are calling from your credit card company or from Visa or Mastercard. They are trying to get you hooked into switching to their low interest card. They are NOT from your credit card company. Some are phishing for information. If they can get you to verify your birth date or your mother's maiden name, they are snatching key bits of information that will allow them to impersonate you when they call your credit card company to rip you off.
  • Warranty Scams - You'll find these scams in all shapes and sizes - auto warranties, appliance warranties, home warranties, electronics warranties. These are all basically rip offs. Generally, they are selling you a warranty that is not necessary. If at some point you need to use the warranty, they are nowhere to be found. 
  • Charitable Scams - Here are the real low-life scammers. They prey on your sense of empathy for a cause. "The children need your support." They do, but you can find a legitimate local charity where you can make your donation with confidence and know that it will be used for good, not ill-gotten gain. 
  • Home Repair Scams - You might get a call from some home repair company, service company, carpet cleaner or any other outfit that would work in or around your home. They'll say, "We're calling to confirm our appointment for tomorrow." When you tell them you don't know anything about it, they'll say, "Oh, we made it with your husband (or wife or some other adult in the house). They verify your address, which they didn't have to begin with. The next day, they show up at your house. Their goal is to snoop around your property or inside your home with the intention of finding something that "needs to be fixed or replaced". If you're not aware of what is going on, you could get hit with services that cost hundred or even thousands of dollars. 
  • Free Trip Scams - Offering a free trip to an exotic destination for three days can sound enticing; however, you're not being booked for a trip, you're being set-up for a timeshare or vacation rental pitch. The big lie is that the "presentation" will only take a couple hours and then you can merrily go on your way, enjoying your free vacation. This is pure bullshit. I'm very familiar with how timeshares work, having worked for one company in Las Vegas. The company I worked for wasn't bad. But our competitors were relentless. They would take prospects on a tram away from the property and keep them tied up for hours and hours - basically ruining an entire day of their FREE vacation. 
  • Free TV's, Electronics, iPods, iPads, etc. - Keep in mind, there is no such thing as FREE. If you are getting something, even if it is a bag of popcorn, they expect you to give them something in return - a stack of papers with dead presidents on them. Another angle these people use is signing you up for travel clubs or discount clubs that have recurring charges. Canceling these charges down the road can be a total nightmare. So don't give in, no matter how good it sounds. 
  • Investment Scams - I lost a small fortune to a company that was illegally using the Coldwell Banker name. I thought they were a reputable outfit. Their business was investing in old apartment buildings and refurbishing them. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and is currently under investigation with the SEC. I may never see my money again. Also, if you have a sizable stock or bond portfolio, you may wind up on an "investors" list. Somehow, I got on one of these lists. I used to get calls to invest in movies (there is about a 100% chance you will never see your money again). I got calls for land deals, venture capital funding for start-up companies, new products and so on. Another aspect of this is the "hot stock tip" deal. "XYZ Douche Bags is selling for 38¢ a share, but we expect it to go to $4.00 in the next month." The rule here is, you know who your investment advisers are. If you want to make an investment, call them. Never do business with anyone that calls you.
  • Make Money At Home Scams - You won't find a more persistent or ruthless group than these scumbags. During hard economic times, everyone is looking for ways to make extra money. People on tight budgets and the elderly are prime targets. Human nature is that we are lazy. We don't really want to put the work into an opportunity that it might need. We also want it to be painless - translated - EASY. So the words you'll hear from these pitches are, "It's simple, it's easy. If I can do it, you can too. We have old ladies with seeing eye dogs doing this, you'll be raking in the dough right away." Some of the opportunities are for Multi-level Marketing companies. I've already written a full expose on them. There is a specific group that has been operating in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area for some time pitching opportunities where they give you a free website. I will be writing a complete report on them. A portion of the company has already been busted for mail fraud, but clones keep popping up all the time. Other make money at home scams are folding envelopes, sending postcards, data entry, freelance writing and more. Again, if they call you, hang up. 
  • Toner Cartridges and Office Supplies - In Las Vegas, there were entire office parks full of phone rooms hustling these inexpensive, but cheap and defective office supplies. Most of these products are reloads, that won't necessarily work the way you want them to and you'll be out "the savings" on the products.
  • Grants - Right now, there are several phone rooms in Las Vegas that are selling grant writing services. They advertise heavily on the radio nationwide, offering a booklet on how to access plentiful supplies of grant funds for your small business. I worked one day for one of these outfits. They were sticking people for $2,500 for grant writing services. The trick was, they had no grant writers. They had a couple high school girls that sent out letters, which were summarily rejected by the grant providers and then they'd stall you for months before they broke the bad news to you. And they didn't have any booklets to send out. 
  • Incorporation In Nevada - Setting up a Nevada corporation has many tax advantages. However, there are about a dozen companies in Las Vegas that pound the phones calling small companies to offer them "streamlined" incorporation services. The "streamlined" services come with a huge price tag and little customer support. If you can get anyone on the phone after you've shelled out $12,000 for your Nevada Inc. papers, you'll be lucky.
  • SEO or Website Optimization - Vegas had a lot of these, too, but they fester nationwide. If you have a website, you will probably get a call from one of these outfits. They all promise the same thing, "We can get you on the first page of Google. That's where all the money is." The going rate for this scam is around $250 to $500. I've talked to a number of people who had their sites "optimized" and I couldn't find them anywhere on Google. 
  • Refinancing Your Home -  Yes, thieves will pose as someone from your mortgage company. Again, they try to get information from you that they should already have, if they WERE your mortgage company. Don't fall for this. 
  • Bank Information Verification - You see a lot of these scams via email. They want you to verify your account info, social security number, etc. It's a scam. Hang up. If you are concerned that there is a problem, call your bank.
  • Credit Card Verification - You might get a call from someone posing as a representative from a company that you have done business with online. The scam is to get you to verify your credit card information so they can complete your order or keep you in their database. If you get a call like this, hang up and call the credit card company yourself. Or another twist is they pose as someone from the fraud department of your credit card company. "There have been some suspicious charges made on your credit card and we need to verify all of your account information to protect you." You're being ripped-off if you talk to them. In this event, get a number where you can call them back, or better yet, just call your credit card company directly. The customer service number is on the back of your card. They can connect you with the fraud department.
I'm sure there are more, but these are the most common telephone scams I know of.

How do you protect yourself?
  1. Hang up
  2. Never give any personal information over the phone. If they say they are your bank, your bank HAS all of your information, they don't need you to tell them what it is. When they ask me questions about verifying my address, I say, "Why don't you tell me." Or "What do you have on file?" They usually hang up.
  3. It is illegal to solicit people on a cell phone. If you get called on your cell phone, tell them, "Do you know it's illegal to call me on my cell phone? I'm going to report you to the Attorney General's office. They usually hang up.
  4. If you have time to kill, I do this. I listen to their entire pitch. I sound excited about what they are selling. Then they ask me to buy. I give them a debit card number for an account I closed. It's no good. They hang up thinking they have a sale. When they run the card, it comes up non-sufficient funds or closed. They call back. I have another credit card I closed that I give them. They try and run that. It's another dud. They call back. The rep will try to brainstorm how I can come up with the $500 they're trying to rip me off for. I tell them, "Gee, I don't know how I can get that together today." Their response, "Mr. Blazic, are you really serious about this opportunity?" Then I say, "NO... and you just got punked!" And I hang up. After that, I let their calls go to voice mail. What this does is waste all of their time. Salespeople only like to work with the best, hottest leads. If you pose as one, you can keep them going for hours while you let your toenails dry and you'll be preventing them from scamming someone else. It really pisses them off. I love it. 
  5. This is a personal favorite of mine that I use on the gang from Phoenix and Scottsdale. They call me every week. They've been doing it for two years. Same pitch, just a different new scam on how I can make a ton of money with my own website that they provide. I listen to the pitch for a while, then I blast my phone with an air horn. That jerks the headset off the idiot. The funny part is that they never make a note, "Mr. Blazic is a dickhead. Don't call him." But every week, I get between three and fifteen calls from these various phone rooms in Arizona and I abuse them every time. I have to take pleasure in the small things in life. I'm such a bastard. But I love it. 
Now you know some of the most common telephone scams and you know how to protect yourself against telephone scams, so let's get to work. Click the link below and get on the Do Not Call Registry. That is step one. Reread this to master the rest. And buy an air horn.

National Do Not Call Registry 

Bankcard Empire's Scam Busted. But Clones Live On

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