Phone Safety Protocols for Moms
There are a growing number of scams, especially with the increase in how much of our data is shared online. Here's how to stay safe.
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Should I answer that?
I don't recognize the number, but I am waiting for a call about a delivery, so it could be that....Is that area code Ohio? Who the heck do I know that lives in Ohi-oh nevermind it already went through to voicemail. I guess I'll never know.
The Joys of Telephone Scams
During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen a number of fraud cases rise. Actually, fraud is pretty much a constant in life. As new technologies pop up, there will be Nigerian princes just waiting to exploit that technology for their nefarious purposes.
Now, most of the time when people talk about safety, they're talking about internet safety. However, a majority of the times I've encountered an active scam in my actual life have been over the phone, so I just wanted to take a minute or two to lay out some basic safety precautions here.
To start out, let's go over some of the common statements that scammers make. If you hear any one of these statements on a phone call, it should be a GIANT RED FLAG that whomever you're talking to is not legitimate:
- You have won some kind of prize, but you have to pay a small fee or shipping costs to get it.
- You may be arrested, fined, or deported if you don't pay some fee.
- You have to make a decision RIGHT NOW. Anyone legit will let you do research, talk to your spouse, or just think a bit.
- You have to pay with cash or a gift card. (Untraceable money transfers are not really a priority for legit businesses.)
- A "government agency" needs to confirm sensitive information. (They're the government. They have your information...usually because they're the ones who issued it to you in the first place.)
Obviously there will be other types of scams out there, but this is a pretty good list of warning signs. If you hear any of these (or more than one) you might want to take any info you hear with an incredibly skeptical eye.
What Scams Should I Watch Out For?
There are lots of types of phone scams. Unfortunately, not all of them are going to come with poor grammar or a phony accent (although it makes it way more fun when they do).
Here are some of the different types of scams you'll see most often:
- Travel or timeshare scams
- Loan scams
- Free (supposedly) trials for products (especially leading up to a monthly fee that is often impossible to cancel)
- Charity scams
- Extended warranties (especially for cars)
- Business or investment scams
- Debt relief and/or credit repair scams
- Student loan scams
- Imposter scams (pretending to be a government agency seems to be a favorite)
Again, there's a wide variety, but these guys are the most common.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
While scammers come up with new strategies every day (crafty little buggers), there are some basic safety protocols
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
- Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
When am I Vulnerable?
I hate to be this person, but always.
Yes, phone scams are most common when you make a big change (a new car, new house, new job, etc.), but they're kind of a fact of life in modern society.
What Should I Do If I've Been Scammed?
First, you should report it. Even if you haven't paid any money, it's always good to go to ftc.gov/complaint and report a phone scam. Your information could help save other people a lot of heartache.
Next, you want to try to get your money back. If you paid with a credit card you can often get the charge canceled. You can sometimes even get gift cards or wire transfers refunded if you act quickly enough.
For a full list of your options, check out the FTC's website on scams. They have very specific information on how to get your money back based on what type of scam it was.
If you can't get your money back, there are many programs, like Debt to Success System which allow you to make regular payments to help you slowly pay off any debt accrued from these scams, but the best thing really is to not get involved in the first place.
The best protection is common sense and a healthy sense of skepticism.
Basically, you should be okay if you treat any phone call with a stranger with the same level of caution you would exercise if you walked into a room and your child immediately whipped their hands behind their back and shouted "nothing!".
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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