Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sniff, sniff…

Smells like a scam to me.

I got a phone call yesterday that came through on the caller ID as “RESTRICTED”.  As always, I let it go through to voicemail.  In the message she gave me her name, the company she worked for and informed me it was about a debt I owed and that they wanted to talk to me about options.  At the end she clearly stated that this was a debt collection issue and that any information they got from me would be confidential and used only in connection with the collection of this debt.

25 years ago, when I was in the middle of bankruptcy because the restaurant I was a partner in went belly up, this would have been expected.  But having experienced these calls, after a little bit of stress over a new debt and reflection on what was said in the message, and what wasn’t, the red flags started flying.

  1. I’ve been paying my bills regularly for over 15 years, I don’t have any delinquent debts.
  2. The phone call came through as “RESTRICTED”, which makes a lot of people think “solicitor” and let it go to voicemail.
  3. She never mentioned the company that I owed the debt to.  Back in the day they always said “This is in regards to your credit card with So-and-so Bank & Trust”.
  4. She didn’t even say my name.  Not a “This call is for Max regarding your debt with So-and-so Bank & Trust”.

So I thought, if I fell for this what would be the natural course of action?

I’d call them back at the 1-800 number they gave me.  They would ask who is calling and I’d give them my name.  Then they would want to verify that it was me and that I did have authority to discuss this with them.  Anytime I call my bank or creditor they ask for two things to make sure they are talking to me:  my home address and my Social Security number. 

Can you hear that fishing line being reeled in?  I sure can.

And I figure that if it does in fact turn out to be legit (and for the life of me I can’t figure out who I’d owe money to, that’s in collections at least) with the current problems with identity theft, they should be reasonably quick to understand why I didn’t respond.

OR, I could call back and tell them I’m Max Sartin (yes, it’s a pseudonym), my address is 1313 10th Kilometer Road and my Social Security number is 666-00-1212.  Now, it would be really funny if I told them all that and I got “Yes, Mr. Sartin, we have your file right here…”. 


Karen S. said...

You are so right Max. I make it a point to never give anyone any information over the telephone, unless I know for darn sure who I am talking with....and like you said calling in like that they have you feeling a sense of security that you shouldn't. I demand they give me the proper info and I agree or not, and if they can't verify well that's what the mail service is for. It's funny that she didn't give you any company name at all.....if she couldn't give me that it's click! There are just too many scams moving around! Buyer beware? More like People beware!!! ;) BTW we have it set up that if they block their call it can't come helps weed out some scammers!

Max said...

I need to look into that, having "RESTRICTED" calls blocked.
We'd put all those scammers out of business if everyone followed one piece of advice:
"If you're not 100% positive it's legit, hang up."
I truly believe any legit organization would understand your reluctance.

A Paperback Writer said...

Caller ID is one of the best things to come out of the information age.

Remember the old days when you had to run for every phone call because it MIGHT be important? And then you had to talk to whoever it was because you'd answered the dang thing!

Max said...

Yes, I love caller ID. I remember when it first came out and people were all up in arms because "what right do people have to know what number I'm calling from?" Glad that went the way of the wind.

Alexia said...

You're on to it, Max!