Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
Back when I had more free-time to watch the "tube," (that'd be more than two decades ago – LOL), a show I enjoyed watching was "Cops." These days, though, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, content similar to "Cops" is bountiful for instant enjoyment. My internet-connected smartphone that goes everywhere I go is akin to my "personal tube," providing bottomless content to stream from the digital world that can be enjoyed anywhere/anytime!
But I still enjoy reading the "Police Blotter" sent out by our local departments. Other than the entertainment value provided by the criminal minds [sarcasm intended], they often reveal tactics employed by the nefarious for online fraud.
One particular tactic disclosed in a highlighted incident from a recent Police Blotter report correlates with what I have been observing personally. Through analyzing the messages left on our answering machine and voicemails, plus reading the unsolicited text messages and emails, there sure seems to be an uptick in scammers trying to get their potential victims to send cash or gift cards.
This scam also touches habit #10 of the "Internet Street Smarts" list I penned just this past April: Do not send cash, checks, gift cards or valuables without discussing the matter with family and/or close friends who you trust.
In retrospect, it's one thing to consult other trustworthy family members and friends on a questionable message that came via text messaging or email but it's another to be put on the spot when you've answered a probable scam phone call.
Whatever the storyline fed to you by the caller, for example a fraudulent charge they intercepted or a credit amount coming to you, do NOT give out any information! Stay calm, jot down whatever information they give you, and then politely hang up.
Remember that one of the telltale signs that the caller is trying to scam you is if the impostor asks you to buy gift cards and further instructs you to scratch off the back to give them the unique card numbers. No legitimate entity will ask you to buy gift cards to settle something. Again, do NOT give any information.
If you are still bothered that the phone call you cut short may have been legitimate, for your peace of mind you can always call the customer service telephone number printed on your credit card or if it was regarding your personal check or debit card associated with your bank account, visit your local branch. Never call back the number left by the caller!
Unless you are accustomed to doing business by logging into your online account at the credit card issuer or your bank's website, in which case you should be able to get a verified customer service number upon log in, be careful when googling for a customer service number. Why? Although it has gotten better, search results may not always put the right answer at the top of the list returned.
Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.
As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation.