“Trick me once shame on you. Trick me twice shame on me.” Anonymous
In January, a woman called me on the phone at my office one afternoon. In broken English she said, “I’m from. . . (and named a law office). I am calling you on behalf of your phone service provider. Your bill for $26.73 is overdue.” I asked her for the phone number she was referencing and she gave me one we use for our office at home.
She went on, “This was for charges in November. Do you remember getting billed for this?
I replied, “No. And if we did it’s been paid because we pay all our bills on time.”
She went on, “We have been assigned this bill to collect. If you will give me a credit card number today we won’t charge you for the service charges.”
I’m thinking, “I just got scammed a month ago. I may be slow but I’m not stupid.”
I replied, “So you’re saying I had charges in November which I didn’t pay. That makes them at most 30 days past due. And my phone company has hired an attorney to collect a bill for $26.73? And all I need to do is give you my credit card number over the phone to take care of this? “
“That’s right,” she responded.
“I don’t think so,” I said as nicely as I could.
“So you want them to send you another bill?” she asked.
“Yes, and when I receive it I’ll pay it just like I pay all my bills,” I responded with as much patience as I could muster.
After I hung up I called my wife to see if we had any outstanding bills to the phone company and she concurred we didn’t. We waited for the next bill and there wasn’t any charge overdue. It was a scam trying to get my credit card number. And if I’d given it the charges would have been a lot more than $26.73.
Whew! Dodged another one.
As from my previous post Scammed!, it seems like there is a never ending stream. Perhaps it’s caused by the challenging economy. Maybe just a lot of people would rather rip off someone than create wealth honestly.
And it’s easy to get sucked in. Their story sounds plausible. The people seem honest. Most of us try to think the best of people. And we were raised to be courteous and not hurt other’s feelings.
Plus most of us live honestly, treating others with good intentions. So it’s hard for us to imagine this nice sounding young person being a con artist. We let down our guard and that’s when we get ripped off.
So how can you trust people and yet not get scammed?
Proverbs says, “The naive inherit folly, but the shrewd are crowned with knowledge.” (Proverbs 14:18, NET)
You can be considerate yet shrewd. Being nice doesn’t mean naïve. You need to be wise and cautious or you’ll eventually get burned.
How do you do this? A few practical ideas.
First, when you get a request from someone you don’t know and you can’t check their credentials slow down and be careful. Scams always looks legit. Good scammers are professionals.
Second, never give out critical personal information on the phone or over the internet to someone you don’t know. Most of the time these scammers are pretending to be from a company you already have an account with. They want to “update” your information. If you already have an account they already have your information. If they don’t have your information don’t give it to them.
Third, ask them to give you the information they have. Check it against information the public wouldn’t know. If they can’t or won’t give it to you don’t give them anything.
Fourth, if you’re not sure, ask them for their phone number and extension so you can call them back. Then check the phone number by putting it in Google. If it checks out call them back and see who answers.
Fifth, never for any reason, send confidential information in an email. View emails like they’re a postcard. Realize your neighbor’s junior-higher can hack your emails.
Live believing in people. Trust them overall. Treat people with respect and courtesy.
But be cautious. Be skeptical of anyone you don’t know who wants information. Regret that you may have caused extra work for someone who was legit. Better than regretting someone cleaned out your bank account or ran up a huge charge on your credit card.
Be careful rather than scammed. Gain wisdom rather than clean up a mess. Stay secure in a world with a lot of con artists.
Where have you been scammed? What do you do to protect yourself? Let me know. I’ll share it in a future post to help other readers.
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Douglas Armey, the LPL Financial adviser associated with this website, practices in Fresno, California and may discuss and/or transact business only with residents of the following states: California, Idaho and Oregon.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance reference is historical and is no guarantee of future results.