Let’s Talk with Terry Ambrose

Scam tip savvy
by Terry Ambrose

The phone call. This afternoon, my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. I almost didn’t answer, but I had sent my doctor a request for a prescription refill, so I felt compelled to take the call. Cautious, I answered.

A pleasant, male voice greeted me. “Hello, I’m calling from Member Services. Who am I speaking to?”

My first thought was that this wasn’t who I thought might be calling. But, I’d already answered and, at least in my generation, you didn’t hang up abruptly. So, I gave the caller my first name and asked who he was.

“I’m from Member Services, and I’m calling about the insurance information you requested.”

Well, rats! I had requested insurance information from an organization, so when he asked for my full name, I gave him first and last. Then he wanted to ‘verify’ my address.

The dilemma. By this time I had alarm bells going off in my head. For all I know, the call was perfectly legitimate, but I write a scam tip about this sort of thing every month. And when someone wants to ‘verify’ my information and I have no way to confirm their identity, I draw the line. I asked him to give me the address he had on file. No go. He couldn’t do that because he was calling to verify, not give out.

Sorry, Charlie, but that’s Strike 3 and you are so out. My response was terse (okay, very nasty schoolteacher-ish). I told him I wasn’t giving him anything because I couldn’t verify who he was, then hung up.

These days, we have Caller ID. It isn’t perfect and scammers can get around it, but at least it’s close. Prior to the days of Caller ID, my mother would answer the phone, listen politely to the caller, then tell them she wanted to make notes because the call was so important. She’d then put down the handset and walk away. Once she heard screeching on the line, she’d hang up the phone.

My mom was good about avoiding scams, but my dad got caught once. He received a check in the mail for a few dollars. He happily cashed the check, thinking he was getting free money. The next month, a charge hit my parent’s bank account for a service they didn’t want, but that had been disclosed in the fine check’s print.

A roll of the dice. The lesson here is that scams are everywhere. When that phone rings or a windfall, no matter how big or small, shows up in the mail, do not trust. I may have made a mistake today and missed out on some great insurance options, but I’m okay with that loss.

Let’s talk about Scam Tip Savvy. Have you ever fallen for a scam? Had a narrow escape? Or can you spot a scam from across the room?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of TREASURE MOST DEADLY, the fifth Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery. Comment by midnight Sunday, May 30, to be entered in the drawing.

Comments

  1. Cherie J says

    No so far I have not. I do feel rather bad for many of the elderly or the mentally disabled who are scammed because parasites like these take advantage of their confusion. It is really sad.

  2. Unfortunately I dropped my cellphone in water and lost all my contacts. Now I have to answer calls from 931 and 615 area codes in case it is family calling. Unfortunately it is usually a caller spoofing off other unfortunate individuals who have nothing to do with their ‘business’.

  3. We get those calls for expired car warranty and from Member Services. Like you, I answer when I’m expecting a call from someone else. I always wonder at what point is it harassment when they call over and over again? It isn’t like you can block the number because they’ll use another one to keep calling.

  4. I read your scam tips all the time and so far have been lucky. A nice feature on our cell phones is block the caller’s number but then I have to answer first to verify it is a spam message.

    • I’ve gotten to the point that I won’t answer if I don’t know the number. Most of the time it’s a warranty scam. On my iPhone, I use the Silence Unknown Callers feature and the call goes straight to voicemail.

  5. My phone has a nice feature called “Potential Junk Call” or some such that mutes all those “I’d like to speak to you about your warranty” calls as well as others it deems possible spam. Though I did miss an important call once with this feature. I hate that I have to assume by default that any unexpected call or email is an attempt to fleece me. I once read excerpts from a website where people posted their adventures in deliberately leading on email scammers for weeks. It was pretty amusing though I’d never have the time or patience to do that, myself.

    • I don’t have the patience, either, Diane. My mom used to tell callers she wanted to go get a pencil so she could write down the information, then leave the phone sitting on the table. When it started to screech, she’d hang up.

  6. I feel you did the right thing. Although, if it’s a number I don’t recognize then it’s a no answer which is a lot of calls. Even some of the legitimate calls are considered fraudulent or a scam by my my provider. My family and I have calls from the town we live and the scammers have even tried used our phone number which is totally wrong but we can’t do anything about it. i love reading your scam tips. I have fallen for a scam and I was out hundreds of dollars and no way to get it the money back. I had just got my first computer and buying insurance but when I refused to buy the insurance again the people put virus after after on my computer and was eventually hacked by someone. I learned a very valuable lesson. I can spot scams better after falling for one.
    Love the book cover, book excerpt and the book looks and sounds like a great read. Would love to read and review in print format.
    Hope I Win

  7. We love playing with them. I got a call from “Discover” yesterday telling me I was entitled to a new lower rate. I pressed one, when the person came on I thanked him for lowering my rate and when would I be receiving my Discover card? He hung up. LOL

    If you are careful you can stretch it out and have fun with these bachagalups.

  8. cherylhollon says

    I’m a big fan of letting any unknown number go to voice mail. My elderly mother didn’t have that feature, so when she determined that it was a spam call, she would bang the receiver against the wall! Until I saw her do that, I couldn’t understand why her handsets were always breaking. LOL

  9. If I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer the phone. I figure if it’s important, the caller will leave a message, and I can return the call. 99% of the time it’s a spam call or worse, a scammer.

  10. Good pointers….can’t be stressed enough. Don’t count me in the contest as I’ve already read the book.

  11. Debra J Pruss says

    Yes, I have been very close to falling for a scam. I have been told that I won a book. I click on the link to fill out a form so the book can be sent, they ask for my credit card. I stop and do not go any further. I do not understand how people can be go to such lengths to do take advantage of others.