I’m a big advocate of being proactive and protecting ourselves and those we care about in all areas of life. In our last blog, we talked about ways to protect our children from predators both on and offline. In this blog, I’ll discuss something that I hear a lot of complaints about: Solicitation calls. We need to protect ourselves, our privacy and our personal information as much as we can and it’s easy to feel threatened when we receive anonymous calls that range from slightly annoying to highly manipulative. Here’s what you can do when you receive one (or more) of these calls:

Don’t answer.

If you don’t recognize the number or who your caller identification says is calling, don’t answer.  If it is someone who needs to talk to you, they will leave a message and you can call them back.  Unfortunately, the spammers have figured out how to “spoof” legitimate phone numbers.  Your caller ID may say it’s your neighbor down the street, but it’s not. Let those close to you know what you’re doing so they will know to send you a quick text or leave a message if they want to speak with you.

Hang up.

If you answer a phone call and it’s not who you think it is, just hang up. Don’t say anything. It’s not rude and it won’t make them call more.

Say as little as possible.

If you do find yourself caught in a phone conversation with someone you don’t know, say as little as possible and hang up as soon as you can. These criminals know the longer they can engage you in conversation, the more likely you are to give them what they want. Some examples:

  • They ask you an innocent-sounding question that can be answered only with “yes” or “no.”  You say “yes.”  The criminal records you saying “yes” and they use the recording as “proof” that you ordered an expensive product or service from them. 
  • The caller calls you “Grandma” and you say your grandson’s name. They pretend to be that grandson and say they are in trouble and need you to send them money. They ask you to not tell their parents. 

Don’t assume they are who they say they are.

Criminals will try to make you believe they are from your bank, the IRS, the police, Social Security Administration, or some other government agency. Often, they will be demanding and make threats. Ask them for the exact name of the agency or organization they work for, their name, their employee identification number, and their job title. Tell them you will be calling your local office of that agency to confirm their identity and then you will call them back. Chances are, they will hang up before giving you any of the information you ask for. 

Examples of scam phone calls where the criminal is trying to steal money from you:

  • The caller says they are from the IRS and they are going to sue you for unpaid taxes unless you pay the taxes immediately with your debit or credit card or with prepaid gift cards. Even if you owe money to the IRS, they will not make threatening phone calls.  The IRS will communicate with you through the mail and will give you the opportunity to question what they say you owe. 
  • The caller says they are from the Social Security Administration and there is a problem with your benefits. They ask you to give them your full Social Security number so they can check your account. If the caller was truly from the Social Security Administration, they would already have your Social Security number. They wouldn’t need to call you to get that information. 

It can be very easy to get intimidated by these types of calls. Even if you don’t feel threatened, they can still be very frustrating. Though you may not ever be able to prevent these calls altogether, you can make sure you aren’t taken advantage of. Have questions about how to deal with these types of calls? Please reach out so we can chat more!

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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