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?

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