DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS
by Leigh Lundin
By now, most of us are aware of a criminal element that wishes to separate us from our money. Florida’s traditionally been a hotbed of sharpsters, hucksters, telemarketers, and con artists, probably because politicians are more worried about policing lawns rather than bad guys. Criminal enterprise requires a lack of light and a paucity of law. That means you, their target, must be vigilant.
Following are two rules to live by:
- Never give information over the phone to anyone who calls you.
- Never give information over the web to anyone who eMails you.
- Corollary: Never provide information on any web page linked from an eMail.
To date, I have yet see a ‘spoof’ (pretense) web page that didn’t have clues it was bogus, but they’re difficult for non-professionals to spot. The hardest thing to falsify is a valid web page address, but the sly use tricks to make them look real. If you get an eMail from PayPal, your bank, or credit card company that suggests you need to check your account in some way, DO NOT use the convenient link provided in the eMail. It’s probably fake because (most) legitimate financial institutions do not provide links for you to log on to your account.
To be safe, type your bank’s address yourself or use a known good bookmark. Never enter your social security number, driver’s license, or anything personal. If you have doubts, visit your bank and ask them to walk you through logging on to your account.
Note: Nigerian scams generally do not ask for account information. Instead, they rely upon getting you to hand over your money freely.
Likewise, if you receive a phone call from a purported merchant, bank, or credit card company, don’t be gulled into revealing personal information. (Mortgage companies are an exception, but even they ask for only the last four digits of the social security number.)
In a slick variation, the caller doesn’t ask for your credit card number. In fact, she warns you about people who ask for your card number. The candor of her advice wins people over. Instead, she either asks for your PIN number or more likely for the CSC/CVC number on the back of your card (front on American Express).
Why? Because they already have your 16 digit credit card number. To use it, however, they need the 3 or 4 digit security code associated with your card.
If they ask for your PIN instead of the security code, they’ve managed to clone your card and intend to lighten your account either from an ATM or a visit to your bank.
A Day in Court
About four years ago, another scheme surfaced, which has earned a warning from the FBI. A ‘bailiff’ or ‘court officer’ calls, informing you that you failed to show up for jury duty.
After scaring you that a crackdown is in force, they’ll "confirm" your birth date and social security number. That in itself is sufficient for them to open new accounts in your name.
It’s possible the "court official" may offer to allow you to pay a $15 fine over the phone. That’s an attempt to get current credit card or banking information.
A Medical Mystery
Once, I came across the following scam. By chance, Carol discovered her name and medical insurance was being used at clinics and physicians’ offices around town. This came to light because she scheduled an appointment the same day as the perpetrator and a clerk noticed the same account billed twice. After several phone calls, she discovered other doctors had billed her account for services not rendered to her.
Money was being liposuctioned out of her insurance account.
From records, she was able to get a physical description, which was about as opposite Carol as possible. She believes this stemmed from a phone call at work, purportedly from her group provider. Receiving a call at your workplace regarding your company’s insurance plan is not at all suspicious.
What to Do
Same as not trusting embedded links in eMails, don’t trust callback numbers given to you over the phone. The trickster may simply give you one of their numbers, not your bank’s or merchant’s at all. Instead, look up your bank’s phone number yourself or call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card.
As your mother warned you, don’t talk to strangers.