Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Scamsters All Around Us

The phone call came in the early evening one night last week. My wife grabbed the cell phone and listened for a moment, shaking her head, and then handed the phone to me, saying “It’s Park Bank”.

The robo-voice said “to activate your new check-card, please press 1”. Hmmm. I’d just gotten a letter in the postal mail from Park Bank, saying a number of their Visa Check-cards had been compromised in some scam, and we were going to get a new card in the mail. So, I pressed 1.

The next thing the robo-voice said was “please enter the 16-digit number of your debit card”. Wait a minute…the scam-alert red flag went up immediately. If this really is Park Bank, they know my debit card number, and would never ask me to enter it – especially to a robo-call device.

So I hung up and called Park Bank the next morning. They’d been inundated with calls like mine, and were assuring all of us that Park Bank will never make such a call, and that we were wise not to give our card number to a machine over the phone. The nice lady said when our new card comes, the letter will ask you to call us, and you’ll be talking with an actual Park Bank employee who will first verify who they’re talking to, and then activate the card.

The scamsters are everywhere.

My sister, who lives up in the Fox Valley, told me she came in from outdoors one night a week or so ago, to hear her husband on the phone, apparently responding to a series of questions. She said “who is that?” and he said “the government…it’s the census people, and they’re asking some questions”. She convinced him to hang up immediately, which he did. But they called right back and said “we were interrupted, can we continue?” This time my sister took the call, and gave them some choice expletives.

The caller ID screen said “U S Government”. These scamsters are good at what they do.

Of course it was not the government calling, and it was not the census. The scamsters started out by asking the street address of the residence where the phone was, how many people lived there, and was it likely that someone would be home during the day to speak with a census employee.

My sister’s guess…and mine…is that the scamsters were trying to figure when would be a good time of day to come over and rob them blind.

You can’t be too careful these days. I worry about my mom, who is 82, and still lives in her own home. Will she be careful enough when someone calls and tries to run a scam on her? I hope so. My brothers and sisters and I warn her about these things, but her generation tends to be more trusting. We always tell mom “ask the caller to send information to you about whatever they’re proposing, in the postal mail” and don’t feel pressured to give answers to anything on the phone.

It can be a very cruel world out there.

1 comment:

  1. was it likely that someone would be home during the day to speak with a census employee.

    THAT is the 'tell' that it was a scam.