Today I got a call from my son to warn me about some of the latest “scare-you-for-$” phone scams. Here are a few of the more popular:
SCAM #1: Phone rings. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”
“Ma’am, every year thousands of children will not have a Christmas this holiday season—no food, no presents, not even a candy cane. And with—”
“Excuse me, but—”
“No, excuse me—with your credit card gift of just $1000, you can help a—”
“I know—a fat guy on a computer living in his mom’s basement. No thanks.” Click.
SCAM #2: Phone rings again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”
“Do you have a son named _______?”
“He’s been arrested (or in a car crash or mugged) and needs you to get a $500 money pak immediately… hurry… he’s suffering!”
Can I just tell you? Your son does not need bail money or money for the ER or plane fare because he was mugged, drugged, and put on a plane to Bourogue. He’s fine.
SCAM #3: Phone rings yet again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”
“This is (Your Power Company). You owe the company $1200 and we’re on our way over to shut off your power right now. However, if you send a money pak immediately, we won’t shut you down.” (Seriously, this is a real thing.)
Well, you’re smarter than that so you say, “Uhm, that doesn’t sound right.” Then you hang up, Google the number for YPCo. and—funny thing—it’s the same number the guy called from. Even funnier thing: you talked to billing and it turns out you don’t owe YPC $1200. In fact, you don’t owe them a cent. Still, the guy calls back so you tell him that. He then informs you that he was calling from the corporate office in D.C. and you called the local YPC number and the local guys don’t have current billing info because there was a computer glitch that messed with their systems (although they don’t know that) and blah, blah, blah… So (says the guy) the bottom line is that you do too owe YPC $1200 and the crew is still coming to turn you off if you don’t pay. And then you’ll freeze to death. On Christmas.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Who falls for those scams? Right?
One of my relatives once fell for a well-established scam targeting older people and it cost him nearly a hundred thousand dollars. Every year, thousands of people are scammed which is why, every year, thieves make millions of dollars scamming them.
The art of the con—especially targeting older folks and especially this time of year—is really quite lucrative. And that’s because the scare tactics work.
Another big money-maker for the criminals is that the big, bad IRS is going to freeze your bank account, notify your employer that you’re about to be a convicted felon, and sell your children into slavery if you don’t cough up your credit card number. Right now. NOW!! And the clock is ticking—every minute that you don’t pay adds interest and penalties and fees to the bill.
But take a deep breath. If you haven’t yet heard, the IRS doesn’t make phone calls, they send letters. Lots of them, if need be, but they won’t be calling you—ever. So it’s okay to hang up on them.
During this season of giving and good will, don’t let someone take advantage of you; don’t be the victim of a scam and don’t let your loved ones be, either. Granted, sometimes these criminals are stupid and their scams are so ridiculous that even my dog wouldn’t bite. But for every five stupid scams, there’s one that’s really good—too good. And hundreds of poor souls will fall for it and lose thousands of dollars—even hundreds of thousands. However, here’s the disclaimer: I am not saying that people shouldn’t give to those in need during the holidays (or any other time). What I am saying is that giving should be done to reputable organizations which will be responsible with your gift, seeing that it goes to the cause it was advertised to help. So go ahead and give—just not to anyone or any organization that you don’t know or that you didn’t personally call.
This holiday season, if there’s one thing you have to remember, it’s this: Once you, yourself, voluntarily use your own credit card or give access to your bank account, you can’t then turn around and cry “fraud” to the bank or the credit card company and get your money back. It’s not fraud—you gave your money away. And it’s gone.
So—when the scammers come calling, just hang up. If it really was your long-lost Uncle Scrooge, he’ll call back.