There is a new fishing scheme in town. The little buggers are sure to twist in multiple directions, luring their unsuspecting prey into their trap, then only to be pulled onto a boat and cut up for dinner, or worse, for bait.
Ok. Not the typical “fishing” as most of us know it. This is a “Phishing” scheme, otherwise known as a way to try to extract personal information from unsuspecting individuals for their profit, and your loss.
I got a voice message today. It said I was “hiding from the federal government and that it needed to stop, and to please call this number, 844.xxx.xxxx”. Well, I can assure you, the federal government may want to talk to me, but I certainly would not hide from them. Initially, I got a transcription of the call from my voicemail system. I found it amusing, so I decided to listen to the actual voicemail. Well, I’m sure it was an auto-caller, just dialing a list of numbers hoping to find someone that will call back and provide their personal information. So, I called. I was connected to Officer Daniel. When asked, I told them my name was John Carney and I was the Governor of Delaware (the Governor and I share the same name).
It was pretty obvious that this was a phishing scheme. First, the number originates in Iowa and, the person answering the phone was not Officer Daniel, as multiple calls resulted in multiple names. Every time I told the person answering my call who I was and that I was calling because there were many complaints to my office about calls from this number it resulted in them hanging up. Although, I did get a couple of interesting responses. One asked me what number received the voicemail (an indication that they don’t have names, only phone numbers.) Another said nothing more than “sorry to bother you.”
I must say, I did have a good time calling the number to see what responses I would get. I enjoyed bothering them as I really despise people that prey on unsuspecting individuals. But, the moral of the story is this: If you get a call from someone claiming something absurd (like you are hiding from the federal government) and tell you to call the number, you have a couple of options. The best is to delete the message or hang up. If you do call, and realize it’s a scam, then hang up and immediately call the local authorities to report the incident. Then, tell ALL of your friends and co-workers about what happened so that they can be prepared if it happens to them.
If you find out too late that you are the victim of identity theft, or even suspect that you may be, you need to call the all credit reporting agencies as soon as possible. File a report with them and ask to have a fraud alert put on your information. This is good for 90 days, and hopefully cover you before anyone can take out credit in your name. You should also call the local police station and make a report. If there is no police report of the incident, then it didn’t happen, and you have very little in the way of recourse. Even after doing this, there is little you can do, but the agencies will take your report a bit more seriously because they now consider it a valid complaint. In a future blog, I’ll go through all the steps and recommendations you should use if you find yourself in this situation. Unfortunately, it happened to me, so I have been through this process several times.
But, let’s look at the numbers (all theoretical). If they call 1,000 numbers and get just 10% of them to call back, that’s 100 call backs. Now, if just 10% of those callers don’t really understand what’s happening then that’s 10 people that just had their personal information compromised. That is well worth the chance of being shut down in a couple of days when you consider that the number of calls made by an auto-dialer can be 100 or 1000 times the number I used in my example.
I typically say “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, but I would turn that around and say “If it sounds too ludicrous to be true, it more than likely is” and you should ignore it completely. You must always be vigilant of providing your personal information to anyone on the phone. I would even go so far as to say that you should never provide any personal identification over the phone unless you initiated the call and know exactly who you are speaking with.
Until next time, cheers.