BBB offers tips on phone scams
As part of National Consumer Protection Week, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) turns its attention to the favorite tool of many scammers: the telephone.
Each and every day, shady operators work the phones to defraud consumers and business owners. Though there’s no way — short of disconnecting the phone — to protect completely from phone scams, there are things people may do to reduce the risk of becoming the next victim.
If people receive a phone call from someone who makes threats, tells them they’ve won a cash prize (or sweepstakes) or demands immediate payment in regards to a debt they are unfamiliar with, those are all signs the call is likely fraudulent. If people receive calls like this, or requests for personal information, BBB advises the following:
➤ Don’t panic. If the calls are abusive or if the callers threaten arrest, stay calm. Keep in mind that scammers are hoping to be paid off quickly just to make the matter go away. Always get verification of any alleged debts in writing. Remember, legitimate collection agents cannot threaten a person with arrest, and even if they owe a debt, individuals still have rights through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
➤ Never give out any financial information, such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone.
➤ Be realistic. It’s impossible to win a lottery or contest without entering, and if people have to pay money upfront to receive their “winnings,” they haven’t won anything.
➤ Think about what a caller is saying. If a caller claims to be with a person’s bank or credit card company and wants the account information so they can verify it, they aren’t telling the truth. An individual’s bank and credit card company already have this information.
➤ Listen closely. If the caller uses poor grammar and/or has a heavy accent, be on alert. Many fraudulent calls originate overseas.
➤ Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, end the call or ask the caller to call back later, giving time to research their claims.
➤ Don’t rely on caller-ID. Scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses.
Another phone scam which has been making the rounds again lately is the “one-ring” scam. This scam targets cellphone owners and tries to entice people to dial an unknown number back by ringing just once and then disconnecting. People who return these calls don’t realize they’re calling international numbers — with normal-looking prefixes such as 473, 809, 876, 284 and 268 – in the Caribbean, where charges can add up quickly. If a call is received from an unknown number, it’s best to ignore it and let it go to voicemail.
Suspicious phone calls may be reported to BBB (bbb.org) or the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov).