Brandi B. Reynolds, CAMS-Audit
Does this sound familiar…you are working from home, like many of us. In one day you receive at least five different incoming scam calls from different people – all with the same approach. In each one the live caller identified him/herself as calling from a company we would all normally be doing business with, yet the company name wasn’t mentioned – just the type of company. And it’s typically the type of company one would trust.
For example, “Hi, this is Jim from the gas company, how are you doing today?” (Substitute electric or water or cable or mobile phone for “gas”).
“I’ve been trying to reach you for days, you’re a very busy person!” (This is a veiled attempt at a compliment. It also imparts a sense of urgency, and a loss if one doesn’t act).
“Due to service issues over the past 6 months, we’re offering a $100 rebate to our valued customers whose bills are over $50 monthly.” (sounds specific, right? Think of all the utilities that have had service issues due to winter storms and cold in all parts of the country) “But because the program ends today, there won’t be time to mail your rebate, we’ll need to deposit it directly into your bank account.” (again, the sense of loss if one doesn’t act).
“It’s money you deserve, can we place your rebate into your bank account?” (remember, the consumer truly believes he/she is speaking with the gas, electric, water, or cable company they really do work with, although the caller never said the exact name of the company.)
“I’ll need your email address, too, to send a confirmation to you.” (scammer gets another piece of your information.)
What happens from that point varies. Sometimes the intent is to simply obtain the routing and bank account information, other times the call progresses to requesting access to online banking credentials.
This scam uses trust, familiarity, a sense of urgency, a desire for money (potentially poverty), and a sense of potential loss if the consumer doesn’t say yes.
There is only one way to fend this off, and that’s to educate consumers, usually elderly consumers, with specifics about how this scam is carried out. Inform consumers (perhaps your grandparents) that if any caller says they’re from a vague business type, hang up immediately. Also, any respectable rebate or refund program would be made directly to the monthly statement – not offered to consumers via a phone call. Make a game out of it with them. Help them feel that they have the upper hand against the jokers on the other end of the line, and to just hang up. The quicker they hang up the less risk that the caller can rope them in. I’ve heard stories of callers saying, “I bet your family member said we were scammers, but they’re wrong. They don’t trust you to make a good decision, but you’re smarter than them, and you’ll get your $100 and they won’t.” We all have to educate vulnerable consumers that scammers use this technique to cajole consumers and gain camaraderie.
It’s sad, but that’s the world of scamming. They know what works, and they are shameless in carrying it out.
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