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Posted on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Getting the upper hand over a persistent telephone scammer

By Rich Kinsey

Things are going well as this mild winter is about give way to spring, when suddenly a call comes that rocks your world. Someone calls you and starts accusing you of some sort of crime or not paying something. The authoritative voice, perhaps with a foreign accent, is demanding that you make swift payment or there will be serious legal consequences.

The rude caller on the other end of the line is from some Federal law enforcement agency you have never heard of or some lofty law firm with a name like Dewey, Cheatem & Howe (actually The Three Stooges' fictitious law firm). Now he is demanding payment or there will be incarceration or steep legal bills to pay. He says it is up to you: swift payment or serious legal consequences.

Well the fact of the matter is that you have no clue what this jerk is talking about, and you have done nothing wrong. So in answer to his demands you tell him to, "go jump in the lake" — or some other more colorful or vulgar idiomatic expression. Hmmm that was odd, but at least you were able to nip it in the bud. With a confident smile and shake of the head you take a sip of your coffee and continue your day.

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Bortn66 | Dreamstime.com

A few hours later you get a call from a close friend. That friend tells you about a call they received from some rude dude that was cranky and told them that they should warn you to pay up or you are going to be in big trouble. Your friend then asks, "Is everything okay?"

"Of course everything is okay. I got a similar call demanding payment this morning, and I have no idea what in the world is going on," you explain to your friend. This friend has been with you through thick and thin, and there are not many secrets between you. The friend was just concerned, and you are now both embarrassed and mad at the mystery caller.

A few minutes later, the kindly secretary from the boss's office drops down to your desk. She exchanges pleasantries and then, in a hushed tone, leans in and says, "Now dear, it is none of my business, and I have not said a word to Mr. Smedley, but I think you should probably pay off that little matter you have so they don't keep calling here. If you are a little short, perhaps I could persuade Mr. Smedley to give you a cash advance."

"No, no, no! I don't owe anyone anything! This is some scam. I got a call this morning and..."

"Well of course you did dear. I'm sorry if I embarrassed you. This will be our little secret." She gives you a maternal grin, pats your hand and walks away as you stammer, "But, but it's the truth. I don't owe anyone any money!"

You will be getting another call directing you to pay up and telling you how much and where to send the money. You are smart enough that you have already gone to the police and made a report about the scam.

Now you can tell the caller that any further queries about payment should be directed to Officer or Detective So-and-So at the Such-and-Such Police Department who would be happy to discuss the matter. Hopefully you will hear a loud "click" at the other end of the line.

You can also call your friend back and tell them to call you if they get another call from the rude dude. Have them document the date, time, what was said and the phone number, if captured.

Best of all you can head up to the boss's office and tell him and his condescending secretary, who found a little too much mirth in your misfortune, the same thing. Tell them you are working with the police to correct this matter, but you may need their help in documenting this.

You will then compile all the dates, times, dialogue and numbers from your acquaintances who have received the calls. You should then forward them to the officer in charge of the case.

Be forewarned that these are tough investigations with few arrests because these scams cross state and even international borders. The only chance law enforcement has is to compile enough information, figure out patterns and find the right jurisdiction to prosecute the case.

This particular scam has surfaced in the area. The information the thieves — or rather "blackmailers" or extortionists — possess about you, comes from applications you have filled out. Perhaps it came from a credit or loan application you filled out that was stolen or sold to the thieves. The numbers called by the scammers are your references and employers.

Guard your personal information. Be careful to whom you give information.

You have enough T-shirts, insulated can wrappers and tote bags. You do not need to give your valuable information to some temporary employee staffing a booth or tent enticing you with "free" stuff to fill out an application.

Do you really think that temp cares to keep your information safe? Applications can fall off the table, be grabbed by people reaching in the back of the booth or worse yet can be sold to thieves in order to pay for that dandy "free" T-shirt you are now sporting.

Lock it up, don't leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com. He also serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County.

Comments

Sallyxyz

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

There are known scams originating in S Dakota, calling and asking for credit card information to verify an account, etc. I have googled the numbers in the past and the internet is full of information about these scams including the numbers they call from. It's all computerized, and the numbers they call from change constantly, but the area codes are the same. The numbers they are calling are also computer generated, so being on the National Do Not Call List doesn't help. I don't answer any number I don't recognize, and if no voice message is left, then that number goes immediately into my "Reject" phone numbers list. That way, their subsequent calls don't go through. That's one of the best features of my cell, the "add this number to the reject list" option. It's currently a long list.

treetowncartel

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Just say come get me female dog

OLDTIMER3

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

I usually just lay the phone down until I hear the beep you get when off the hook to long. Lately it is the political calls that are most annoying. They call at all hours.

Gopal Das

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Unfortunately, there are still tons of similar telephone scams out there…There is an iPhone app recently released, called Scam Detector, which exposes over 500 of the most notorious scams. It is worth checking it out, if you have an iPhone. The app is also online, if interested: <a href="http://www.scam-detector.com" rel='nofollow'>www.scam-detector.com</a>. Kinda cool, actually.

jns131

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

I got calls like that at work and tried to figure out how they got my number. Even my cell got some weird person calling for someone who had a Mexican name tied to it. I kept telling them this was a private cell and I was going to hire a detective to find you and sue. They do get nasty. For the record? I don't answer if I don't know the number and hang up on those 800 callers. So done. So, yes, from what I see here? All of us have been victimized.

djm12652

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

Really simple to clear up these types of scams...just tell the caller to send you hard copies of all documentation, certified! But don't give them your address...it just irks them when you tell them if they don't already know it, too bad for them! Please, in a town listed as one of the most intelligent, we must also add there are a vast number of gullibles as well!

julieswhimsies

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

Place all of your phone numbers on the national Do Not Call List. When someone harasses you the first time, they get a free pass. The second time, note their number and call the &quot;List&quot;, and they will get a stiff fine. This won't stop all spammers and phishers, but it will help a bit.

DBH

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

The following appears to be definitive regarding businesses. According to the Do-Not-Call website, registration on the lists is limited to home and cell phones only; business phones and faxes are not covered. &quot;14. Can I register my business phone number or a fax number? The National Do Not Call Registry is only for personal phone numbers. Business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered by the National Do Not Call Registry.&quot; See <a href="http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt107.shtm" rel='nofollow'>http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt107.shtm</a> .

DBH

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Actually, you both might be right. Information at @Youwhine's link refers to &quot;home&quot; or &quot;homes.&quot; For business numbers, you might need to reenter every six months, if businesses are even allowed to be off-limits by Do-Not-Call registration.

julieswhimsies

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:55 a.m.

You may be right. I heard that from my husband who owns his own business...and has gotten tons of these calls in the past. I'll keep doing it, anyway, just to be safe.

DBH

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

Thanks, @Youwhine, I thought something like that was the policy.

Youwhine

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

From the FCC's website: &quot;You can register your phone numbers for free, and they will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers. &quot; <a href="http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/do-not-call-list" rel='nofollow'>http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/do-not-call-list</a>

DBH

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

&quot;You need to call the list every six months and re-add your numbers.&quot; Are you sure? I have never heard or read that before.

julieswhimsies

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Oh. You need to call the list every six months and re-add your numbers.

spm

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

A co-worker had taken out a loan and paid it off a few years ago, but awhile ago she got a call from someone claiming to be from that agency and demanded that she pay off the loan and threatened legal action if she didn't pay up. They called her at home and at work. She got the paperwork out and called the loan company to verify it was paid off. The loan company told her they probably got the info. from somewhere (although they didn't blame themselves, of course) and told her to ignore them. She did them one better - she called our security office and explained that someone was calling and threatening her at work. The next time these people called she patched them into the security officer's line and whatever he said to them they never called her again.

jns131

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

Banks will never own up to selling off our names, phone numbers and what ever else they can unload for money. So many banks right now are going down because of nasty things like this.

Lovaduck

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

There's another one. They call you claiming to be a political survey (that get's them around the do not call list). They get you to respond to three innocuous questions, then say &quot;YOU'VE WON A CARIBBEAN CRUISE! We'll connect you to a travel agent to book you.&quot; Of course, it's just a high priced travel agency who are using the political questions as a cover. The cruise is anything but &quot;free&quot; but that's another matter. JUST HANG UP!

thecompound

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Some of the rudest callers are the places hired by the police or fire department to solicit donations (assuming these are real). I have gone at with a few of them but now I don't even answer the phone. It is also unfortunate that if you donate once to some place, they will hound you every other month for another donation.

Harry

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

They always ask for money for deceased officers. Not a bad cause. But whose going to give to my wife if I passed? I wouldn't think anyone so I purchase life insurance. Do police officers not have life insurance?

kittybkahn

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

I get these calls from Credit Card Services all the time. Usually I just hang up on the recording, but once I decided to click on the number to reach a representative so I could ask them to take me off their list. A woman answered and I asked her which credit card she was calling about. She couldn't tell me and asked me for my credit card number. Of course, I wouldn't give it to her and told her she called me so she should know what it was. She hung up on me and the calls continue. I just hang up now, but they are annoying.

thecompound

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Depending on my mood, when I get those calls, I sometimes let the kids answer and have a little fun asking the caller dumb questions, lol.

paul wiener

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Add me to those who don't answer unknown callers, and to those who simply hang up if the caller doesn't sound right after 5 seconds. If someone is really and truly trying to collect for a legitimate reason, from a legitimate collection agency, just wait for the registered letter, or for a call from a person you can identify or call back, or for a message from your bank or credit card vendor that appears in your account. Serious account business is virtually NEVER done via telephone, and almost never via email. Nearly every legitimate company tells you this upfront. Why anyone would pay attention to an an anonymous phone call, no matter what they say they know about you, is beyond me.

leaguebus

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

I don't answer long distance calls from numbers I don't recognize. If you are curious who called, just Google the number and usually, if it is a scammer, there wii be others who figured out who it is and blogged somewhere about it.

janeqdoe

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I received a call from &quot;Credit Card Services&quot; yesterday. The caller asked if I am so-and-so, then asked me to provide him with my address to verify my identity. I told him that he didn't need to verify my identity because I had no idea who HE is, and I don't give out personal information to strangers over the phone. That ended the call. It irrates me when strangers ask for personal data. As long as they think they can obtain it, they will keep trying!

jns131

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

Love it. I am reminded of the movie Ms Doubtfire. Remember the calls he made as a nanny calling about the ad? Those where funny. Maybe I should do a Robin Williams.

Lovaduck

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

I asked them &quot;Who do you represent?&quot; They said &quot;Visa and Mastercard&quot; I said, &quot;YES, but WHOSE' Visa and Mastercard&quot;? They hung up.

JMK

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I have been repeatedly called by a company &quot;Credit Card Services&quot; for years. In fact, I received 2 calls yesterday. The way they got my number is I placed my name in the Do Not Call registry. The registry list is given out to companies for them not to call so scammers get the list, claiming to be a legit company then they load all the numbers into their computer. Same company calls from many different numbers. It is a robo-call and when asked if you have high credit card balance and interested in lowering dial &quot;1&quot;. A live person comes on and they ask if you are interested and if you say no, or I want off the list they hang up. I've given them bogus information and a few days later a &quot;Debt reduction&quot; company calls. I told them what happened and they said they are not affiliated with &quot;Credit Card Services&quot;. Every time I receive a call I report them to the FTC, FCC and my phone company. Nothing has changed.

dexterreader

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Any time I see an incoming call with an area code I don't recognize, I don't even answer the call (funny ... they never leave a message). Most of them are &quot;robot&quot; calls anyway. And it seems they are on the increase within the last year, even if you are registered on the Do-Not-Call list.

EyeHeartA2

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Slightly different (internet scams), but if you have the time and inclination to play along, you can have some fun with them: <a href="http://www.419eater.com/" rel='nofollow'>http://www.419eater.com/</a>

golfer

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

National Do Not Call Registry i think they have so many they are over loaded. i have called in several i mean several numbers. they still call. i just hang up on them. they even call my cell. what a joke.

demistify

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

Cell phones also need to be entered in the Registry. If a business calls and you are in the Registry, hang up. Unfortunately, &quot;non-profits&quot; and political groups are not covered by the Registry.

actionjackson

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

This is why it is called &quot;Personal&quot; information!

RunsWithScissors

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

So true! We tend to hand out our personal information without giving it much thought. When I'm asked for my telephone number at the checkout lane, I reply, &quot;I don't give that out.&quot; Because I suspect they'll sell that number to marketers. Rebate programs can be just as bad as credit applications. Rebates are not free money. Companies are collecting your data and will use it to hound you with enough junk mail to choke a paper shredder or, soon enough, send so many spam texts to your cell phone that you'll want to feed that to the shredder. Officer Kinsey is right. But the telephone scam is an obvious abuse of your information. An insidious and legal use of the same info is being bought &amp; sold on the internet. It's about time we gave some thought to what information we're handing out and why.