Imagine this: you get a call from someone who identifies themselves as a border official while you’re busy at work, telling you that your social security number was being used to try and obtain a passport. The ‘official’ says all the right things: you aren’t being investigated but he needs your help to nab the person who is.
Is the call legitimate? No. How can you protect yourself from being the victim of identity theft and fraud? Justin Lavelle, a leading expert in phone scams and Chief Communications Officer for beenverified.com wants to share some red flags that can help you to decide whether a caller is legitimate or not, and to protect yourself from being the victim of a telephone scam.
1.) A legitimate issue with government documentation would not come via telephone.Institutions like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not telephone you to advise of an issue with your social security number or that you were the victim of identity theft. It’s not how they operate. Any calls that come in of that nature should be disconnected immediately.
2.) The scammer is putting pressure on you through threats.If the caller is advising that you are exposing yourself the possibility of intervention from law enforcement, and that you could face prosecution if you don’t cooperate, you should consider this to be a major red flag. At no time would a legitimate agency threaten you with prosecution via a telephone call, in order to secure your cooperation.
3.) There is an extreme time pressure for you to respond to their requests for information.This is another major red flag that is often combined with threats. For example, if the caller is telling you that you have to provide what they need within minutes, or face prosecution, be wary. This is a tactic meant to frighten you beyond the threats themselves, to get the information they want quickly, before you have to time to consider the legitimacy of the request. Another red flag that is similar to this one is when you are told you have X time to cooperate, but that time window shifts as the call continues.
4.) The scammer is advising you not to communicate with others.Whether it’s the possibility of your telling your spouse about the call, your work colleague or contacting a law enforcement agency, the scammers want to avoid this at all costs and might tell you not to share the discussion, for fear of compromising their efforts to ‘catch the bad guys’. By bringing you on in on it, as if you’re a member of the team, they make you feel like you are doing them a service. However, law enforcement of any type isn’t in the business of bringing civilians in on the action. Life isn’t a movie!
5.) The number doesn’t correspond correctly to the individual who claims to be calling.Caller ID is not a safe way to identify a caller, as fake numbers can be displayed, however, if you see an area code or toll-free code that just doesn’t make sense, look it up. Google and reverse phone look-up apps are powerful tools and there are plenty of ways to report numbers that are used by scammers, so odds are you're not the first to receive a call from that number and can find others who have reported it as a scam.
6.) The scammer wants you to use gift cards to transfer money to them.If you really think about it, this sounds silly: you buying a $300 Google Play Card is how U.S. Customs and Border Control are going to help you deal with your identity theft situation? When you read that, you’re probably thinking: ‘That’s ridiculous!’ But in the throes of a call in which you are being told there is a time limit to help and threats of prosecution are coming fast and furious, causing you stress? You could miss this flag!
Protect yourself by being wary of calls that come in on your cell phone, in particular. Your caller ID is not a protection you can rely on as numbers displayed can be fake, to give the appearance of being local, when in fact they might be a continent away. If you feel that a call might be legitimate, ask for the person’s name, hang up and call the organization in question directly. Trusting someone to ID themselves over the telephone is a sure way to lose your money, your identity and your sense of safety.
About Justin Lavelle and BeenVerified.com:
Justin Lavelle, is Chief Communications Officer for https://www.beenverified.com and a leading expert in phone scams. BeenVerified is a top source for reverse phone technology so you can quickly check who is associated with the phone number that’s calling and avoid answering scam artist calls. BeenVerified offers a fast, affordable, and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more.