It was only a split second, I couldn’t imagine it was a phone scam. The phone rang, it was an 800 number I had saved as customer service for one of my credit cards, I wondered if there was something wrong and I answered the phone. On the other end there was a voice calling me by my name, using the name of the financial institution’s fraud department saying that someone was making unauthorized purchases using my card. What???
My heart raced as my financial life flashed before my very eyes. I imagined all the money being spent at Best Buy and the Apple store, the hassle of having to deal with the credit card company and all those countless minutes on hold, explaining myself over and over again. In other words, a nightmare. Then something happened.
The voice on the other end said, “Mr. Coro, we just need you to verify a few details in order to access your account.”
That’s when I knew. After all the countless radio and TV interviews talking about phone and online scams, I guess I was well trained enough and that took over my judgement even though my adrenaline was in high gear. It suddenly dawned upon me as to why these things really work. One thing is when somebody calls you and tries to use a little social engineering to get something out of you and another is for them to shock your senses and then use the disorienting effect to get you to talk.
I immediately reacted and asked him, “Aren’t you calling me? Don’t you have that information?”
The guy insisted, “We need to verify the information anyways if not, we are going to have to lock your account.”
“Fine,” I said. “Do it, I’ll call to get it unlocked.”
They hung up. I immediately picked up the phone, called the company in question and guess what? Nothing. My account was fine and there were no alerts or anything on it. The scammers were using a common trick which is that on a Voice over IP line and with the use of some apps, you can pretend to be calling from any number. If Caller ID is turned on, it will even tell you the name of the institution they are faking the call from so many people are duped and fall for the trap.
Let’s remember that recently, over 140 million records were stolen from Equifax and that information can be easily bought on the internet. If you are a scammer, you can get a few hundred or thousands of records, start dialing for dollars like if you were on a regular telemarketing sales job, the only difference is that people’s identities and credit lines are way more profitable.
The advice is simple. Do not trust Caller ID, do not trust anyone that calls you from anywhere asking for personal information. Hang up politely, call the institution back on your own and verify what is happening. Yes, I know it’s a small hassle but not compared to the hassle of having your identity stolen and trying to get I back. Trust me, that call is worth the wait.