Scammers are so savvy at picking tidbits of information out of your conversation with them and feeding them right back to you as if it's information they already knew that it is just mind boggling.
I had an interesting telephone call at my home the other day.
Actually, “day” is not the right word. The call interrupted my deep sleep at 5:30 a.m.
Now, those of you who know me best know that I am definitely not an early riser when I don't have to be. So, to me, 5:30 a.m. is very much the middle of the night. And I was very much out of it.
It took me awhile, therefore, to wake up to the point that I realized the house phone was ringing. When I did realize what it was, however, I immediately snapped to alert mode. You see, I am enough of my mother's daughter to automatically think one thing when the ringing telephone interrupts an otherwise peaceful night: Something is wrong somewhere.
In other words, when the phone rings at such an hour, the news is almost always not good.
Well, I got to the phone just in time to hear the “click” on the other end. I must have been slower to come out of dreamland than I thought.
I did have presence enough of mind, however, to look at the caller ID. It was an 800 number.
Now, neither of the two people I automatically thought about when the phone rang have an 800 number. So I began to feel my temperature rise. Who in the bleepity-bleep would be calling me to solicit a donation/sell me something/ask me to vote for their candidate at 5:30 in the MORNING?
I called the number back.
When the guy answered the phone, he said it was an alarm company. Apparently (or so he said) someone's home security alarm had gone off and they called my house by accident.
Two thoughts went through my mind: How secure is a home security alarm company that calls the wrong number? And: Yeah, right. Alarm company my #$&.
What if they were actually trying to determine if I have an alarm system, and if the answer was no, would I return home some night to find my home ransacked? Or, if the answer was yes, did they have some sophisticated way to determine my access code and, once again, I would return home to a surprise of the most unpleasant sort?
It does make you wonder.
Now let me tell you about another phone call I received.
This one came in during the day, and I was therefore awake enough to pick it up before the party on the other end could hang up.
It was a recording telling me that my ATM card at a certain local credit union had been discontinued and if I wanted to reactivate it I needed to “press 1.”
Now, while I do have an itty bitty account at the credit union they mentioned, I do not have an ATM card.
This time it was my turn to “click.”
Just last week I received a call at work from a gentleman who had received an unexpected telephone call himself – from someone who claimed to be his grandson.
His “grandson” said he had been traveling in Canada and had gotten into a bit of trouble and wound up being arrested. He asked for the gentleman to wire him some money so he could bail himself out of jail.
It was not a small amount.
This gentleman became wary of his “grandson's” claims, and did a little research – finding out his real grandson was not even close to Canada.
He called the “grandson” back and threatened to turn him over to the police. He said the person on the other end of the phone called him many things that cannot be printed here.
Fortunately, this gentleman let his head overcome his heart and caught the scammer in the act, before he handed over any money.
These scammers are so savvy at picking tidbits of information out of your conversation with them and feeding them right back to you as if it's information they already knew that it is just mind boggling.
And quite believable.
Was the call from the alarm company a potential scam? I don't know. I tried to research it on the Internet but didn't find anything.
There's quite a lot of information out there, however, about various bank/credit union scams and the grandparent scam.
I guess the point of all this is: Be wary, be careful, and get all the facts before you act. It just might save you some peace of mind .... and a lot of money.
Liz Beavers is editor of the Mineral Daily News-Tribune in Keyser, W.Va.