The telephone rings and the first words out of the caller’s mouth are, “Is this Jane?” If your name is Jane, your first instinct may be to say, “Yes,” and there may be no harm in that. But often, simply saying “yes” could be the wrong thing. All kinds of dishonest people - from telemarketers to scam artists – use the telephone to gain information. Being aware of some simple telephone guidelines can greatly increase your security.
Know the caller – ask for identification right away. Unscrupulous companies, scam artists and criminals will likely have a good story ready, but one way to verify the call is to ask for a phone number (or get it from your caller ID) and tell the person calling that you’ll call them back. If they say it’s not possible for you to return the call, tell them you’re not interested. Before you dial, run the phone number through a computer database. There are plenty of free sites that offer reverse phone number lookups for free. Whitepages and Anywho are good options. If the phone number is a reputable company, they’re more than likely listed and you can verify that the phone number you’re calling is the XYZ Company, and that the number doesn’t belong to Mr. Smith in Nowhere, USA.
Beware of prizes - If you haven’t signed up for a weekend getaway, be ware of the marketer who tells you you’ve won one. If you have signed up, you probably gave them your address and all other pertinent information. Verifying an address they give you is one thing, giving them your address is another.
Be stingy with personal information – A company that is giving you a free prize shouldn’t need to know where you have a bank account, your social security number or any other personally identifying information. Never give bank account or credit card numbers over the phone unless you’re positive you’re dealing with a reputable company.
If it sounds too good to be true … - Your grandmother’s advice will stand you in good stead here. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When time is vital – One of the most common scams used by dishonest companies and criminals is that the deal is good only for the few minutes they have you on the phone. If they tell you that you have to agree now or they’ll pass the deal on to the next customer, you should probably pass. The “deal” may be that one partner plans to rob your house while you travel across town to pick up your free cruise ship tickets at a company office that doesn’t exist.
Just say no – It may start sounding redundant, but saying “no” may be your best defense against unwanted offers. In some cases, companies may say they’re recording the conversation. Then they may ask you to verify your phone number or address. When they rattle it off correctly, you’ll say “yes.” The company will then use that one word to change your long distance service provider, send your first shipment of books or sign you up for some other unwanted service.
Share safety rules – Everyone in the house should be on the same page when it comes to telephone safety. Be sure that even the youngest member of the household know the “just say no” policy.
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