When you get a robocall, should you…
- hang up right away
- follow the instructions for removing yourself from their call list
- try to get through to a real person, then shame them for calling when you’re on the “Do Not Call List”
Although “C” was tempting, I used to do “B” thinking that it was the most logical way to get the calls to stop. But the calls actually increased! How could that be?
It’s because some of these calls are from fraudulent companies who have no interest in following FTC regulations.
Like many of you, we’re on the Do Not Call Registry. (If you’re not, do this today at DoNotCall.gov.) It stops most unsolicited calls. The calls we do receive are from scammers like “Rachel from cardholder services” and the new “Life Alert” phishing scam.
While it does help to report these calls to DoNotCall.gov, you should know that some originate from outside the US, which makes it difficult for the FTC to prosecute them. It doesn’t help to try to remove your number from their call lists, because they don’t actually have a list. They’re just dialing random numbers hoping to get a live line. In fact, any interaction on your part could actually put you on a call list!
If you want to keep track of calls that violate FTC regulations, you can put in a formal complaint on the Do Not Call website or by calling 888-382-1222. We’ve started to do this. In fact, I did this yesterday as I received a robocall on my cell phone – which is against FTC regulations in every state no matter the circumstances.
Calls you shouldn’t report to DoNotCall.gov
- Political campaigns
- Companies that you do business with
Unless they’ve called your cell phone, it’s perfectly legal for companies to call you for these purposes. If you report them, you’re just wasting the FTC’s time, which is unfortunate around election time and the holidays.
While doing the research for this post, I came across some interesting tips for stopping the calls. Some people are suggesting starting your voicemail message with the three tones you hear when you call a disconnected number. Do you think the robocallers have programmed their systems to ignore disconnected phone numbers? I’m not so sure, but it’s a fun idea.
Let me know what you are doing to eliminate unwanted phone calls from your life.
Call your credit card companies to let them know where you will be. Your credit card company will know it’s you making the charges and will let them go through.
Put a hold on postal mail, newspapers, and any other regular deliveries before you go. You don’t want mail piling up advertising a vacant house.
Clean out your wallet. Remove all items that will not be necessary (that includes your checkbook). Carry two credit cards, and if you are traveling with someone, have different credit cards in case one wallet is stolen.
If you need to use an ATM, use one at a bank (preferably in a lobby). They are less likely to be tampered with.
Be careful when using hotel computers and Wi-Fi networks. Do not access your financial accounts as identity theft can be right around the corner.
Beware of fake calls from the “front desk”. If you receive a call from the hotel front desk telling you your credit card didn’t go through, it could be a scam. Thank the caller, and then go to the front desk in person to straighten this out. Never give your personal information over the phone to someone who calls you.
Taking a few precautions before, and during, your vacation may save you from financial troubles when you get back.
The “winning prize” scam typically starts with a notice that you have won a sum of money. This should be your first clue, since you probably haven’t entered any contests. If you follow the instructions, you will eventually receive a check in the mail for a few thousand dollars. You are instructed to deposit that check into your bank account and wire a “prize fee” to the sender. For example, if you get a $3,000 check, you may be asked to wire $2,500. Do you think you’ve won a $500 prize? Think again!
After you send your money, you will discover that the check they sent you is no good. Not only are you out the money you paid them, but you are liable for all the bank fees associated with depositing a bad check.
I can’t tell you this strongly enough – when you win something, you will NEVER have to pay fees. You should never be asked to give up any money in advance or ever. A legitimate win will be subject to taxes – but those would be paid with your tax returns. If you are contacted, be cautious and never give any money in advance to receive a prize.
How to check if your bills are real? According to the US Secret Service, you should be looking for the differences between the same denominations of bills Check the portrait, the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals, border, serial number and the paper If you think the money is not real, refuse to accept it Ask for another bill If the bill is real, the person who has possession can easily exchange it at their bank.
Older bills, before 1996 are still in circulation and do NOT have these new security features and therefore may seem counterfeit to you Older bills are harder to detect Again, you simply refuse to accept them when receiving money.
Counterfeit bills are out there everywhere The person who possesses the counterfeit money is the person who loses So if you accept counterfeit bills and attempt to use them, it’s your loss (regardless of where you got them from) Check your change before you accept it to be safe.
Phone bills can be confusing There are various services charges and taxes associated with using a phone number You may be tempted to ignore the fine print However, I suggest you check your phone bill carefully Circle any charges you don’t understand and call your phone company for an explanation You may be a victim of “cramming.”
What is cramming? According to the FCC: “Cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.”
Could cramming happen to you? Yes Here are two common examples:
1 You signed up for a new phone service because they offered a low monthly fee However, you weren’t told that common services, like texting or long distance, weren’t included in the fee and you’d be charge extra for each message.
2 You used your phone to donate money to the earthquake in Haiti They said it would be simple and the charge would appear on your phone It did But then you find a new recurring “membership” fee on your account after that donation That’s a classic example of “cramming.”
Here’s the bad news Unlike a credit card company, you cannot contact your phone provider and dispute the charge Typically, the phone company refuses to get involved and you are left to fight this on your own.
So what are you supposed to do? You can contact your phone company to request to block third party charges on your phone bill Once you do this, you can no longer authorize charges either, so texting donations is out It’s an all or nothing option
You should be aware of your bills and look at them closely for anything unauthorized and take appropriate action Do you remember the telephone days of Ma Bell and the breakup back in 1984? Before the breakup, there was only phone company and charges were easy to trace Shortly after the breakup, it was still easy to track your charges because you were billed on one statement regardless of how many companies you used Those days are over Today, you need to carefully review your phone statements to protect yourself against fraud.
For more information on cramming, visit the FCC at www2.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cramming.html
Credit Card Shaving – it sounds like what you would say if you were cutting back on your credit cards, but that’s not what it means. This is the latest credit card scam and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. Isn’t that scary?
Credit Card Shaving Q & A
How do they get your credit card number? They get it through guesswork, not by theft. The thief makes a random list of 16 digit numbers. Then he tries to make purchases online with different combinations. If one works, then he knows he has a legitimate account.
Why is it called “Credit Card Shaving?” The thief literally shaves the raised numbers off of other credit cards (usually cheap gift cards) and glues them onto a new card in the correct order. The card looks legitimate. He can even use his own ID to prove the card is his.
How does he change the magnetic strip? The thief doesn’t need the magnetic strip, he just “scores” or scratches it so it can’t be used in the automated stripe reader. This forces the cashier to manually enter the numbers that are glued to the card.
What can you do about it? Always monitor your accounts. Check statements for unusual purchases. If you can access your accounts online, you can check more often.
Is it time-consuming to monitor your accounts? We treat credit cards like pre-approved micro-loans, or feel they’re safer than carrying cash because they can be canceled if stolen. In reality, the more cards you have, the more work is required to watch over them.