4. Fraud and Scams
a. Fraud on the phone
Fraudulent telemarketers – Telemarketers may start with a postcard promising cash and prizes if you call an “800” or “900” number. If you do call, a friendly voice will ask for your credit card number to “verify” your identity, and then come the high-pressure tactics to get you to buy merchandise with your credit card. Later you may be billed several times, or you may never receive the merchandise at all. If you do receive the merchandise, it may not be what you expected or you may feel that the price you paid was highly inflated. By that time, it is often difficult and time consuming to return the item and receive credit.
To protect yourself, ask for written information on products or services offered before you order them.
Fake orders for magazine subscriptions – People selling magazine subscriptions may “offer” an extremely low price which is only available if you pay with a credit card. Repeatedly, terms like “verification,” “identification,” or “process” will be used to try to get your to reveal your credit card number. Once you give it, the con artist will use the number to place fake orders.
NEVER give anyone your credit card number on the phone unless you made the call to place an order or to make a donation. Do not make a donation to an unknown charity. Check with the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/about/contactus.aspx) to see if the organization complies with their standard.
Investment frauds – When someone calls with an investment opportunity, ask for the name, address, and phone number of the company. Request references and written materials about the investment. Always read carefully any forms before signing. Check with the Better Business Bureau, FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm), a financial planner, or at your bank or investment firm.
Pseudo bank examiner fraud – This type of fraud begins when someone calls your home, identifies himself or herself as a bank examiner, and says he or she needs your help to catch an employee, usually a teller, suspected of theft. You are asked to withdraw a specified amount of cash from your account. The caller says that a representative will come to your home, pick up the money, and redeposit it in your account to test the employee’s honesty. He explains that the deposit must be in cash so that serial numbers on the bills can be checked. But once you give your money over to the “examiner,” you never see it again.
NEVER turn large sums of cash over to anyone, especially a stranger. If you are approached by a so-called bank examiner or bank representative, always call your bank immediately to verify and alert them.
Travel scams – Travel scams often combine phone and mail fraud. A phone call from a travel club announces that you are the grand prize winner of a contest. Chances are you never entered any such contest, but naturally you would be happy to win a prize. Then, you are told that this prize only can be obtained if you pay a membership fee to their travel club, as small as $10 or as much as $300 or more. And again, you must pay using your credit card. Once the callers have your card number, they can use it.
The best way to defend yourself against questionable calls, other than to hang up is to ask the caller to send you information in writing. Again, ask about the caller and the company. Remember, the use of excessive high pressure sales tactics is often a sign of a con artist at work.