Though the “Nigerian Prince” scam still suckers people into sending money, scammers have become more sophisticated, making it much easier to fall prey to their schemes.
My mother-in-law received a call from someone claiming to be from her bank. Apparently, they had nabbed someone named “Mitch” (same last name as my in-laws) attempting to withdraw $3,000 from her account.
The caller said they just needed to verify some information…
Fortunately, my mother-in-law was suspicious and wouldn’t provide the necessary details. The scammers turned up the heat. “If you won’t confirm the account information, we’ll have no choice but to let this person go with the money.”
She quickly hung up. There had been no Mitch trying to withdraw $3,000.
Another ingenious scam I read about online recently involved a call that showed up on the person’s phone from their bank. The caller said they were from the fraud unit calling to verify some recent purchases.
Apparently, they had already hacked into the account but needed a PIN to withdraw the money. Because they could see the activity in the account, they asked the person to confirm specific transactions.
When the person did, they asked a few more questions that proved they had the account information so that it appeared the call was legitimate.
The last thing they asked for was their PIN so they could change it in order to protect against future fraud.
One Simple Trick
Here’s one thing you can do to ensure you never get scammed. If you receive a phone call or email requesting information, simply hang up, call the institution’s toll-free number, and ask about the issue you were called or emailed about.
Don’t call the number that came in on your phone or any other number that they give you. Scammers have become very good at hijacking phone numbers, so it will appear that their calls are legitimate.
For example, say that you get a call from your bank asking you to verify some details. Hang up and look on the back of your debit card or statement or go online for your bank’s toll-free number.
Explain what happened and ask if anyone from the bank has contacted you. The representative should see notes if you were called.
If you’re concerned that the scammer already has some of your information, ask to speak to the fraud department (once you call the toll-free number yourself).
If the call is from “the IRS” or “the Social Security Administration,” it’s a scam. No need to call their 1-800 numbers. The IRS and SSA do not call people asking for information or claiming you owe money. Period.
Don’t EVER give out personal or financial information to someone who calls you. Give it to someone ONLY when you initiate the call.
If you receive a legitimate request for information, the caller will have no problem with you calling back on the company’s toll-free number.
If they start to pressure you and make excuses for why you shouldn’t do that and instead give them the information, that’s a sure sign of a scam.
The callback is a very simple strategy for not being scammed, but it could save you a bundle from increasingly sophisticated con artists.