One thing you learn in business pretty fast is “there is a scam artist born every minute.” While there are legitimate charities and programs that offer financial help to the needy, there are also unscrupulous individuals who are more than happy to separate you from your money.
Unfortunately, during the holidays, thieves and crooks play upon the emotions and needs of people who need help the most.
Just minutes ago, I received a phone call from a scammer claiming to represent a legitimate government grant organization in Washington, DC. The caller ID display on my phone showed a DC area code, so the call seemed legit.
The caller said I had just been selected to receive a $10,000 grant that I could use for any reason, as long as it is not for anything illegal. It sounded great, but having been around the block a few times, I could smell the rip-off a mile away. Amused, I continued to listen.
“How would you like us to send you the grant money?” he asked.
“Just send me a check,” I said.
That’s when things became problematic—at least for him. He explained that the organization does not issue checks. Instead, I would need to provide my debit card info for direct deposit, or they could wire the money to my account via Money Gram. I was given another phone number to call to speak with a representative, who would then verify my information.
And, of course, once they have my banking information, that’s all they need to wipe my account clean.
Just for fun, I asked the man what name he had for me (He didn’t address me by my name when I answered). He could not provide it. And neither would I provide my banking information.
Rip-offs can occur in a matter of seconds, and with today’s technology, more crooks are getting away with it. A person can pretend to be calling from one place and actually be somewhere else. Con artists are playing all sorts of telephone games to conceal their identity. I’ve returned calls that showed up on my caller ID within minutes of receiving them, and have gotten a recording saying the number is “disconnected.”
I recognize the game because of my experiences, but what if I were a vulnerable senior citizen, or a desperate single parent? The promise of easy money might tempt me to let my guard down.
Please be smart and protect yourself against scammers. Remember if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If an offer sounds good, please take your time, listen carefully, take notes and ask lots of questions. Better yet, just say no to any unsolicited phone calls until you have a chance to verify whether the company is legitimate. Get their information first and tell them you will think about it. Then hang up and do your research.
A popular saying among crooks is “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Unfortunately, this is true, but you don’t have to be the one to fall for the con games. Be safe and be smart, so you can have a happy holiday.