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How to Avoid… Phone Scams

Money Down The Drain

How many times a day does this scenario happen to you? The phone rings and you drop whatever you were doing to pick it up, only to hear a familiar pause, and then a mechanical voice reeling off a script.

“I’m not interested, thank you”. You hang up and sigh. Bloody telemarketers.

At home, we even get telemarketing calls in Chinese, because the phone line is registered under Feng’s name. I take it as an opportunity to practice my language skills—it’s just too bad that there are no clear negation words like “no” in Chinese.

Telemarketing is a pain. Most people would love to reduce the number of unsolicited calls they receive or even eliminate telemarketing calls altogether. Tips and tricks exist but they were not 100% effective:

  • You can register your phone number to the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) for free. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations are still allowed to call you, including registered charities, political parties, newspapers and organizations with whom you had a business relationship within the past 18 months (!).
  • You may tell the telemarketers you want to be placed on their “do not call” lists. However, some organizations will just ignore that and continue to call.

But keep in mind that:

Telemarketers have “suckers lists”, lists of people who have previously been successfully solicited for something, such as a donation. Even if you’ve made sure not to give out your phone number to anyone, you can still receive unwanted calls: remember my “personal stalker” who drove me crazy for months?

Worse, a lot of unsolicited phone calls are just scams. For instance, false charities have been known to call out-of-the-blue to pressure or even threaten people to contribute immediately. Companies can get fooled by seemingly good deals offered by illegitimate office supply dealers.

One of the most common scams is the prize pitch call, where you are told you won a big prize (usually a holiday, a car or a large amount of money). You can’t remember entering any contest but hey, it’s a prize, right? But in order to receive your prize, you will have to buy a product first. Of course, you will never receive your prize.

If you were victim of a prize pitch call, be prepare to be called for the prize recovery scam, a tricky follow-up. The caller usually claims he is from a law enforcement bureau and wants to help you recover the money you lost… for a small fee. You can see a sample of a fraudulent document here.

Be sure to read these tips to learn to recognize phone scams. There is also a comprehensive article on 16 Ways You Can Be Phone Scammed.

Finally, I’m a big fan of this free reverse phone number lookup, built by users. Simply enter the number that keeps on calling you at ungodly hours and see if others have the same issue. That’s how I was able to track my personal stalker!

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