If you donate money over the phone, the first thing you'll need to do is figure out how to identify a phone scam. Telephone fraud is a major industry and the scammers have the process down. The phone scams sound on the up and up, until you start digging. You'll need a few basic tools to out the bad guys including;
- pad and pen
- access to the internet
- phone, of course
- Notice the lag in answering you. Automated dialers, also called robo-callers, are frequently used in phone scams. The first step in how to identify a phone scam is to listen for the long pause. Robo-dialers ring multiple lines and the first person to pick up is sent to a real-life scammer. The long pause in connecting the talker means you were the first to pick up. Robo-dialers can be used legally by "information" agencies and political parties, but phone scams also attempt to slip between the cracks for short period of fleecing. If you answer quickly and you have to wait for the caller to answer, it's a phone scam.
- Listen for identification. The caller should clearly identify the company and provide their first name, at a minimum. If you don't recognize the company, ask for a telephone contact number and take time to look up the company online or in a library. Contact your local Better Business Bureau or the local offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if you can't find the company or charity listed.
- Note the urgency in the solicitor's voice. Scammers don't want to wait. They want to set you up for the take down and push to get you to act. Big stings may take a week to set you up, but the eventual call for cash action will be at a fever pitch. The caller may even offer to drive over immediately to pick up money. If the transaction can't wait for verification, it's a phone scam. If the deal is so hot that it won't wait and it's too good to be true, it's a phone scam. There's no free lunch, especially for deals with strangers, or friends or friends, calling on the phone.
- Listen for the money pitch. It's all about the money. The phone scam may be about stocks, bonds, buying real estate or items advertised in the newspaper or free online classified ads, but it's always about the money. The scammer will gain your confidence and then move in for the money pitch. If you're donating money to charity, take time to look up the charity and call the toll-free telephone number listed on a recognized web site or in the telephone book. Never use the telephone number or address supplied by the caller.
- Identify weak answers to key questions. If the phone caller is evasive and provides answers that are too general or non-responsive, hang up. It's a phone scam.
- Listen for the reluctance to provide contact phone numbers and addresses. How to identify phone scam involves pushing the caller into a position to expose the fraud. Honest solicitors will be happy to have you call the office and provide a donation. Phone scammers don't want you anywhere near a real charity office. They'll pretend to be representing police fraternal organizations, cancer hospitals and honest, legitimate organizations.
- Failure to provide a solicitation license. All phone soliciting companies are required by law to have licenses for the non-profit or company and be approved to solicit money. If the caller can't provide the information, they're part of the phone scam.
- Keep an ear out for uncertainty about key details. Identifying phone scam involves listening to the details. The script will be tight, but when you start asking questions, things begin to fall apart. The phone scammer won't have details, but the person will want your Social Security number, bank accounts and any other identifying information. Real charities don't ask for this information. Your bank and credit companies have this information. Your bank will not ask for this information on the phone. Hang up and call your bank or credit agency. Never give any personal information over the phone.
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