CHARLOTTE, NC – Keeping up with the proliferation telephone scams these days is getting to be more challenging than dealing with robo-callers. The biggest difference is that you can hang up on the robo guy, mutter a few four letter (or longer) expletives and get on with your life. Not so if find yourself ensnared in a scam that takes considerable time, energy and money to resolve.
Speaking of scams, there’s a particularly nasty scam going around right now. This incredibly devious trick can fool even the most skeptical and alert of intended victims. Unless they’re very suspicious and very careful.
As recently reported by Lifehacker, the latest telephone scam scam uses your bank’s real phone number to encourage you to surrender your PIN.
Here’s how this latest telephone scam works:
The scammers call your phone claiming to represent your bank. They explain to you that someone has attempted to use your bank credit card in some faraway or exotic location. When you tell them it wasn’t you who made the purchase, they helpfully “assist” you.
These magnanimous, big-hearted fake bankers first put you at ease by telling you they’ll take immediate action to block the bogus transaction.
Following that, their next step is asking for your member number.
For most people, this doesn’t raise an obvious red flag. Why? Because, unlike an account number or PIN, scammers can’t use your member number alone to rip you off.
“So if that’s true, what’s the big deal?” you ask.
Because what the con artist can do and will do is use your member number to reset your bank account password and trigger a verification code text that is then sent to your cellphone.
The next step in this devious telephone scam
The callers tell you they’re sending a “verification PIN.” Then, they ask you to read it back to them. Because the text is a legitimate code sent from your actual bank, it’s easy to fall for this ruse. But you’re actually providing the scammers with the information they need to change your bank login details.
Then comes the final phase of the scam. Now the scammer asks for your PIN number. They claim they need it to block the number and deny the current and future “bogus” transactions. But their ultimate goal is to obtain that final piece of the puzzle they need to infiltrate your account.
Eternal vigilance is still a good idea
You should always treat any incoming calls allegedly originating from your bank with the greatest of caution. In this case specifically, if the caller asks you to share your PIN over the phone, that’s a surefire indication you should hang up. If you suspect the call is legitimate, tell them you’ll call the bank back so you know you’re in contact with a number you can trust. A real bank employee won’t try to stop you.
It’s always wise to establish a personal relationship with at least one or two employees of your bank so you have someone you know who can help raise a red flag to the bank’s home office if it ever proves necessary.
Telephone scam attempts are frighteningly common today. Worse, the number is growing. Even worse, telephone scam criminals increasingly prefer to pinpoint vulnerable, older, retired Americans. They know that many of these innocent and often credulous people have some kind of retirement funds squirrelled away, which is precisely the treasure-trove a telephone scam ring is eager to target.
A real danger to older Americans
Many of our older citizens are easily frightened by the threat of financial problems. Scammers know this group is all-too-ready to react to a clever telephone scam in just the way the scammers intend: by walking into their trap and providing all the information they ask for.
Unsurprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 535,000 complaints in 2018 alone. Almost invariably, the complaints involved imposter scams where the fraudster pretended to be someone the victim trusted.
Sixty-nine percent of fraud attempts in 2018 were made by phone, according to the FTC’s tally. Almost one in five people targeted by these imposter scams lost money.
The FTC’s advice if you find you’re a target of a telephone scam
The FTC’s advice for avoiding such scams is simple. Never give out account or identity-related numbers to anyone over the phone. If you’re asked to confirm one of these numbers, don’t do it. It’s a trick.
Sadly the telephone scam con game world becomes increasingly more sophisticated each and every day. Just imagine. If scammers spent only half the time they use to dream up their elaborate cons by creating legitimate, innovative uses for modern technology, how much better off the whole world would be.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Read more of Bob’s journeys with ALS and his travels around the world
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