By Wayne William Cipriano
There was a very important article on the front page of the HERALD last week (13 February, 2020) concerning scams. This article dealt with lottery scams that were recently reported in the county. There were some tips listed to avoid being taken in by such scams. One of those tips was the fact that it is pretty tough to win the lottery if I haven’t bought a ticket. Ha. Ha. Sure. Everyone knows that.
Well, as I discussed with a very attractive woman when we were talking about this article, what if the person on the phone said the ticket was bought for you by someone else? Don’t we all know someone who regularly plays lotteries and might do something like that?
On my birthday last year, my old roommate called me to wish me a happy birthday and told me he had bought several lottery tickets for me as a present, but, he sadly reported, I hadn’t won anything.
A guy “in the business” once told me that if I thought I was too smart to be conned, I just hadn’t met the right con, yet!
Over a four-day period we received three fraud calls. Not those robocalls that ask you to do foolish things (when you get those, report them to the State of Missouri – 866-289-9631 – and the Federal Government – 888-382-1222). Those were “real” fraud calls.
The first two were easily discovered for what they were: obviously foreign persons with English as a second language (one sounded like a Filipino accent, the other like someone from India; although I could be wrong about both), In each case, after I was sure I had the telephone numbers memorized, I very courteously asked the caller to hold on for a moment while I did something away from the phone. Then I set the receiver down and walked away. After some time I returned and both callers had hung up. I reported both calls to the State and to the Feds as I always do, passing on their phone numbers even though as they were 683- numbers and therefore, as our President would way, were bull___.
The third call was a very different and very dangerous call. It began with a very official-sounding recorded message made by what sounded like an American speaker alerting us that our Amazon account had been used to purchase a camera and a laptop and if we had not purchased those items we should push “1” on our telephone for further assistance. Of course, we do not have an Amazon account nor do we use computers so the fraud was immediately realized. But we played along to see what would happen.
When I pushed “1” we were connected to a guy who sounded as if he was an English speaker from India (although, once again, I could be wrong about his nationality). He repeated the warning about abuse on our Amazon account and questioned us about recent purchases. When we assured him we had made no such purchases, he asked us to locate pen and paper and write down our theft code number (if you are playing along it was 1001011). Then he asked us to sit down in front of our computer, turn it on, and follow his instructions to protect ourselves from being charged for these “fraudulent” purchases. I told the fellow to hold on while I moved elsewhere in our home to get to our computer and then laid the phone down and pushed the “mute” button. When we checked a while later, he had hung up.
Sure, we were not taken in. But, the recorded message sounded legit, and an American speaker afterward might have gotten close to tricking us. We were soooooo smart, we were not fooled. This time.
Remember what that con artist told me. If haven’t been conned, I just haven’t met the right con. YET. If it sounds really, really good, it is not. And even if you miss out on a million-dollar deal, you’ll probably break even over a lifetime by saying, “Hold on for a minute. I’ve got to take something off the stove” and laying the receiver down.
Don’t end up as an object lesson to others.