Just hang up

Just hang upThis photo shows a switchboard operator around 1900. Provided photo.

Today, cell phones have replaced landlines in many homes. But there are still people who remember the day when only landlines were available and they knew the one or two telephone operators who worked at the local phone company. Back then, there were no worries about who was on the other end when the phone rang. Most likely the worst thing to distract from your busy schedule was an innocently dialed wrong number.

Things are different today. Technology has grown from that single telephone operator sitting at a local switchboard to people all over the world buying lists of phone numbers and connecting to them with multiple, very clever scams.

The first time I heard about a scam call was from a friend who had been called by the “IRS” claiming she owed money and the sheriff was on the way to haul her off to jail if she didn’t give them her credit card information right then and there over the phone.

It was a scam of course. The real IRS doesn’t call. If there is truly a problem with taxes, they send a letter. The same is true for other government organizations like Medicare, Social Security, and others. So don’t be fooled with these calls. 

Scammers have been known to use “scare tactics” and are so good at it that they are able to confuse people. Never feel rushed and never give out personal information when you get one of these calls. There is absolutely no reason to give your social security number or account numbers to anyone who calls you. 

Another friend told me about a call from “police” in another state telling him that his granddaughter had been in an accident, was unable to come to the phone and talk to him, but she needed his help and could he transfer money into a certain bank account. That scare tactic could have worked because my friend really did have a granddaughter in that state! But fortunately he was level headed enough to ask the “police” for their phone number and he would call them back. The answer he got was CLICK. The scammer immediately hung up. That scam had failed.

Just hang up
This price tag clearly indicates a special price if you buy 3 pairs. (Photo by C. R. Wagner)

I have had my share of scam calls. It has been either a scammer telling me that I qualify for a better interest rate on my credit card or they want to offer me a great deal on an extended warranty on my car. Legitimate banks and credit companies don’t make calls like that. They will send a letter.

According to information from First Energy Corporation, if an account is past due they send a written notice and they never accept debit cards or wire transfers as payment. Their representatives never demand bank information or a credit card number over the phone if they should call for any reason. So, if someone says they are from the electric company and asks for that information, you can bet it’s a scammer.

One of the scariest scam methods my son told me about was that some scammers have figured out how to have the name and number of a family member show up on caller ID when the call is really coming from the scammer’s phone. Hypothetically it would go something like this. 

My phone would ring and my caller ID would show my son’s name and number. I would answer and I would hear a man’s voice talking fast and not quite sounding like my son, saying, “Hi Mom! I don’t have much time. I’m filling out an application. Quick, I need your social security number on the application.”  

I would say something about his voice and he would answer that he has a cold and please can I just tell him my social security number because he only has a few minutes to get the application in on time. So, of course I want to help my son and I would think that it’s my son because that’s his name and number on the caller ID. If I actually gave the caller my number, I would be scammed! Do what my friend did and tell him you’ll call him back. 

Not all companies who call are scammers, but legitimate ones will give you a number you can call back. Get their name and number and research if they are a reputable company before you agree to anything.

Scams aren’t just limited to phone calls. Sometimes junk mail will indicate an association with a government organization to make themselves look legitimate. I received something in the mail from “2020 Medicare Health Plan Update.”  The key word “Medicare” was used to get my attention and make me think that it was from Medicare. It was actually a form to fill out information to send to an unnamed supplemental insurance company. 

How did I figure that one out? The postage paid card for me to return was to be sent to a post office box in Oklahoma. No company name was anywhere on it. It might be a legitimate company, but was I going to take a chance on getting scammed?

Stores aren’t actually scamming people, but sometimes you have to watch how things are being rung up when you check out. A friend purchased some socks at a department store. The tag on the socks read “$8.50 each or 3 for $21.” Since she wanted to take advantage of the best deal, she checked out with three pairs. But the clerk rang up each pair separately – $8.50 each – a total of $25.50. She pointed it out to the clerk who told her that the $21 price was the manufacturer’s special, but their store didn’t use that price. Fortunately when my friend asked for the manager, it was properly taken care of.

As I am writing this, my husband received two calls. One was his “final chance to have his credit card interest rate lowered.” The second one was someone who wanted to mail him a rebate check because he had “overpaid” on his electric bill. Yet they asked him who his electric provider was! Perhaps scammers aren’t as smart as we think. 

We are living in a world full of great technology, but that also means we have to be careful. If you suspect it’s a scam, just hang up. 

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