Sounds easy enough. And it should be. But every day thousands of consumers do just the opposite. A few examples:
• A supposed telemarketing or survey call begins with the question: “Are you over age 18?” “Yes, of course.” You’ve just given the caller permission to take advantage of you.
• A rich widow in an African country wants to share her inherited wealth with you. “Yes!” you respond, not hesitating a second in providing your bank account number so she can deposit the funds.
• You spot the car of your dreams online for a fraction of the cost you’ve seen it elsewhere. The out-of-state seller instructs you to wire the funds and the car will be shipped. “Yes!” you respond, counting the days until the convertible arrives.
Maybe you recognized yourself in one of these scenarios, or perhaps there are others that tripped you up, such as the out-of-town contractor who left mid-job with your money or the phishing email that, as it turns out, wasn’t from your bank after all.
“Just say ‘no,’” says Larry D. Newman, a former Secret Service agent and retired senior director of corporate security for Western Union. Now living in northern Colorado, Newman advises consumers to do what he and his wife do. “When we get a call and they ask if we’re over age 18, we hang up.” In fact, any question that aims to solicit a “yes” is instead answered by a click. Of the receiver. Never – ever! – say “yes” to anyone you don’t know who calls, emails or sends a letter, he advises.
And by saying “no,” Newman adds, you effectively eliminate one of three requirements for any scam to be successful: the scammer, a non-bank financial outlet (money-wire service, for example) and you.
Below are three additional situations that tend to trip up unsuspecting consumers with suggested actions from your BBB:
Scenario No. 1
With the political season heating up, you should be extra wary of the intended purpose of all those calls you get. Is it really a candidate’s survey about health care costs? Is it really an honest request for a campaign donation? Or is it a scammer sitting in Indonesia posing as a political volunteer?
What to do? Just say “no.” You can donate to the candidate on his or her website or even by snail mail, should you wish to do so.
Scenario No. 2
You get a phone call or email from your grandson who claims to have run into a bit of trouble overseas and needs you to wire $2,500 or some other amount to bail him out of jail, fix a rental car and/or acquire a new passport and plane tickets home. And, he pleads, don’t tell Mom or Dad.
What to do? Just say “no.” If you think it might really be your grandson or granddaughter or best friend from high school, contact that person’s immediate family or coworkers. It’s almost guaranteed they’ll tell you there is no cause for alarm.
Scenario No. 3
You receive a letter announcing that you’re the winner of a mega millions sweepstakes! To receive your winnings, you’re instructed to wire $29.99 to cover taxes and fees.
What to do? Just say “no.” Or rather, toss the letter along with the rest of your junk mail. If you choose to wire the $29.99 – what if this is the real deal, right? – the only thing that will come of it is that your address will be added to the mailing lists of numerous other sweepstakes scams.
And the scammer? If he gets enough people wiring him $29.99, $2,500 or $25,000, he’ll be able to purchase a fleet of luxury sedans and sports cars and not wince at paying full asking price. After all, they’ll look nice sitting in the driveways of his vacation villas scattered across the globe. Paid for, in part, by you.
And you? Don’t you wish you just said “no”?
Start With Trust. For trustworthy consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or call 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371.
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