I got a scam call on my cell phone yesterday. I'm quite certain that all of the regular readers here know how to handle that, but it was a reminder to me to double check that a few older relatives understand how sneaky these guys can be and you may want to do the same. Here's how the call went:
(phone rings, no caller ID number-1st tip)
Voice(male, Indian accent): Can I speak to the head of the household?
Me: Who is this?
Voice: This is Brian from Microsoft Windows and I am calling about a computer at your residence...
Me: Haha...nonsense(hang up)
I hadn't seen that particular scam before, but I'm pretty sure it was what the FTC calls a Tech Support Scam. The caller was going to try to scare me about my computer having a virus and get me to download malware or more likely get my credit card info and charge me for bogus software or services. It didn't work on me because I know that Microsoft not only doesn't do that sort of thing and they also have no possible way to associate my cell phone number with my home computer, not legitimately anyway.
The FBI has a fairly comprehensive list of things to do to avoid phone fraud, but here are my short rules:
- Never assume a caller is legitimate. Government agencies, banks, credit card companies, and other institutions are almost never going to call and ask you to give them personal info or credit card numbers unless you already have some issue ongoing with them.
- Never let anyone bully you into divulging information. If you think there really is an issue you need to address, get the info from the caller, hang up, and call the organization back through a verified phone number out of the phone book or on their website.
- If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true. Nobody but a con artist is going to call you up out of the blue and give you money. Ever.
- Donating to charities is a wonderful thing, but nearly all of them now have safe and secure websites where you can do that. Never give out your credit card number to some strange phone solicitor when you can donate or purchase securely online.
- Never be afraid or ashamed to tell a phone solicitor that you want to wait until a family member or friend checks things out. Legitimate companies and charities will welcome the scrutiny, scammers won't.
That's off the top of my head. If you have others to add in the comments, feel free.
I know quite a few older folks who aren't stupid, but being honest and trustworthy themselves they tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when the phones rings. It's sad to have to disabuse them of that notion, but that's the way it is. And it doesn't hurt to once in a while give out some gentle reminders.