Avoid nuisance phone calls

Dec 17th, 2014 | By | Category: ABCs of Fraud, Finance

By Bud McGinnis

Invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell 140 years ago revolutionized the way we communicate with others. No longer was it necessary to use the postal service, the telegraph, or to travel to the destination of the contact. Being able to talk with someone at a distance over telephone lines was indeed a major advance.

Although there has been an amazing advance in technology, the abuse that existed in the past is still with us.  At many of our presentations the problem of nuisance phone calls is raised and whether there’s a means of eliminating them.  The answer is: “Yes, you can avoid some, but not all of them.”  There is a unit within the CRTC known as the Do Not Call List with the phone number 1-866-580-3625. Call that number and ask to have your phone registered. Registration does not, however, eliminate surveys, or calls from charities and political organizations.  Moreover calls from outside Canada are not blocked since they are beyond CRTC jurisdiction. Of course, the nuisance phone call is just one type of abuse courtesy of the telephone.  Con men often call requesting support for a charity.

Although not exclusively, many calls come after a major well publicized disaster. The caller is seeking support for a Disaster Relief Fund to help victims of the flood, earthquake, or tsunami.  As responsible citizens, we are aware of the need and are only too willing to help. Before handing over any money, however, do your own research.  Begin by asking the caller to send you their literature; review it and assure yourself of its authenticity. Only then should you make your contribution.  Too often these requests come from con men who are using the misfortune of others to enrich themselves through misrepresentation.

Before going further we must again stress that any incoming call is from a stranger unless you recognize the voice. He may be who he says he is, such as a member of a local service organization, a representative of a local financial institution, or a volunteer with a local charity.  Conversely, he could be a fraudster wanting access to your personal or financial information.  You just don’t know.  Don’t take chances.  Just say, “I don’t deal with such  matters over the phone.  Thank you.” Then hang up. Should you really be interested in the proposal, however, do your own investigation.  Call the parent agency and determine the authenticity of the caller and the request.  Frequently, we seniors are too trusting and pay a heavy price for believing that everyone else is honest too.

When emotion is involved it follows that we are even less critical.  This feature shows up in what has become known as The Grandparents Scam. The scheme begins when someone, usually a grandparent, receives a phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild. When the senior responds to the ringing phone the caller says for example, “Hi Grandma, know who this is?” The senior, taken aback says, “No, I’m not sure, are you Jimmy?”  Of course the caller says “Yes” and immediately goes on to request help.  There are many different scenarios.  Jimmy may have been involved in a car accident, or he may have been apprehended by local police for being drunk and disorderly, or he could need cash to get some extortionist off his back.  In any case, Jimmy is really scared and needs $5,000 immediately. He has one other request. “Don’t tell my Dad, he would just kill me if he knew I was in this kind of mess.”  Sometimes a third party, claiming to be a lawyer, takes the phone and further emphasizes the urgency of the situation noting that the quickest way to transfer funds is via Western Union.

The fraudster knows that this type of transfer can’t be traced.

Too often, the grandparent, wanting to help the grandchild, arranges the fund transfer. Only later when she checks on Jimmy’s whereabouts does she find that it’s a hoax; Jimmy is not away, has never been away; he’s still attending College and living at home. The fraudster is now $5,000 richer and Grandma is $5,000 poorer.  This emotional response proved very costly.

I know of one grandmother who received this type of call and basically said “No way.” Her response to the caller was, “In our family Alan, we’ve always been taught to be responsible for our own actions, and if you won’t call your father I will.” Of course, at that point the phone line went dead.

As usual, we close with the offer of a free presentation to groups or organizations wishing to learn more about avoiding scams and frauds. There is no cost for a presentation and the time and location are established according to the wishes of the host agency. For more information or to request a presentation call 613-564-5555 and leave a message. A Rotarian will call back to determine your specific interests and to arrange a presentation for you. Whenever possible a police officer is one of the presenters.

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