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 your phone – to protect yourself completely from phone scams, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of becoming the next victim.
If you receive a phone call from someone who makes threats, tells you that you’ve won a cash prize (or sweepstakes) or demands immediate payment in regards to a debt you’re unfamiliar with, those are all signs the call is likely fraudulent. If you 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 you with arrest, stay calm. Keep in mind that scammers are hoping that you’ll pay them off quickly just to make the matter go away. Always get verification of any alleged debts in writing. Remember, legitimate collection agents cannot threaten you with arrest, and even if you owe a debt, you 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. You can’t win a lottery or contest you didn’t enter, and if you have to pay money upfront to receive your “winnings,” you haven’t won anything.
· Think about what you’re being told. If a caller claims to be with your bank or your credit card company and wants your account information so they can verify it, they aren’t telling the truth; your bank and your 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 to you, end the call or ask the caller to call back later, after you’ve had 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 you receive a call from an unknown number, it’s best to ignore it and let it go to voicemail.
The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.
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