Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant you are, there is always the chance that you will be taken in by a telephone scam. While many of us are well-guarded against concerns related to email phishing, there are still opportunities for many to engage in identity theft using your personal information. And, if you aren't careful, you might give a scammer all of that information on your own.
There are a number of telephone scams out there, and you need to be on the alert. Here are 5 telephone scams to watch out for:
1. Charity Scams
This one is so difficult because you think that you are helping those in need. You receive a phone call, requesting that you donate money to a good cause. You have to say no, so you pull out the credit card and provide a number -- and a security code. In some cases, the charity scam is just about getting a few bucks. The scammers pocket the cash (you think you've given to a good cause), and move on. Other scammers, though, take the information you have given them and go on a spending spree. You have to be careful, because sometimes scammers spoof the caller ID. Or they call themselves by the name of a charity that sounds familiar or similar to a real charity.
In most cases, you are better off not giving a donation over the phone. Simply say that you already donate to the charity of your choice, and that you have no interest in being added to another charity role. This polite enough for real charities, and keeps you from giving information to scammers.
2. Canadian Revenue Agency Communications
While many fraudulent CRA communications take place over email, you still want to be on the lookout for telephone scams. You might be told that a vital piece of information is missing from your paperwork, or that you qualify for a bigger benefit. Watch out for these types of scams. For the most part, the CRA will contact you via mail. Additionally, the CRA is quite clear that it doesn't leave personal information on an answering machine, so if you hear a message, it might not be legitimate. Contact your local CRA office through official channels, and don't rely on the number you are given.
3. Lower Your Credit Card Rates
Sometimes, a scammer will call and claim to be able to help you lower your credit card interest rates. While there are ways that you can get a lower credit card interest rate, chances are that the person calling to offer you this marvelous deal is a scammer. These scammers take your personal and financial information, and then can use it against you. You need to be careful in these situations. Instead of giving your information to someone who calls you on the phone, contact your creditors on your own to try and get lower rates. You can also consider a balance transfer to help you save money on interest charges.
4. Free Vacation
There are legitimate times when you might win a free vacation. However, it's important to realize that you aren't likely to receive a free vacation out of the blue. If someone calls and tells you that all you need to pay are "taxes" or "processing fees" or some other seemingly-nominal charge, be very suspicious. It might be a ploy to get your credit card number. And, of course, you don't end up going on the vacation.
5. Text Message Scams
Scammers are starting to get in on the act when it comes to technology. Cell phone numbers are becoming an increasingly popular target. You are texted, claiming that you won a shopping spree, or that you can get a coupon for a large amount of money. All you have to do is text a certain code back. Unfortunately, this code might actually authorize additional charges to your phone, costing you big time. Be careful of what you send back, and, unless you have specifically signed up to receive offers via text from a specific retailer, watch out.
This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance #363 at Good Financial Cents.