The following scenario is all too familiar to most of us: A Worcester man, we’ll call him Bob, is sitting at home on a Sunday night having dinner with his family when his cell phone rings. The voice on the other end claims to be from Massachusetts Board of Health and wanted Bob to take a survey over the phone. Bob was cautious. He thought something didn’t feel right about the call and hung up.
Bob may have done the smart thing, but not everyone hangs up. Bob could have easily thought nothing of it and answered the questions, giving the scammer information that could lead to stolen bank accounts, stolen credit card numbers, or worse.
How do you know if the call is a scam? What should you do if it is? In 2010, more than 84,000 people like Bob reported scams like this to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But there are ways to protect yourself. We’ve put together a few tips to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from nefarious telemarketing scammers:
- Don’t Give Them Anything. These scammers are hunting for information. The best thing you can do is to tell them nothing. This means don’t confirm your name if your spouse is home…nothing. Hang up and don’t give them anything. Any bit of information that you give them could be used to separate you from your money or identity.
- Don’t Call Me. If some organization, charity, or group calls you uninvited, they probably aren’t who they say they are. Even if your caller ID looks legit, it might not be. Caller ID’s can be faked. Rely instead on your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
- I’ll Call You. If the caller is insisting that they speak with you right away, tell them that you will call them back directly. At that point, some scammers will offer you a phone number as a way to verify they are who they say they are. Don’t call this number. You are better off looking up the number yourself, or, if it’s a company you have done business with before like a utility company, call the number on the monthly bill.
- Keep Alert. Even if you are the one initiating the call, you could still be at risk. If it’s a company that you don’t know, before talking with them you should do some homework. Look them up with the Better Business Bureau, look at their website, and research them online. You can even ask them to mail you some information. If they are legit, they know where to send it.
- Don’t Be Rushed. The scammer might try to hurry you into making a decision. Don’t let them. This is how they get you to slip up and give them what they want.
- Help Be Part of the Solution. If you’ve received a call that you suspect to be a scam, report it to the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). If you don’t report it, someone else may fall victim to the scammer.
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