written by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Think back to those long ago days when the telephone was your family’s lifeline to the world. I remember when my grandparents, who lived on a farm in Wharton County, got their first phone back in the early 1950’s. It was a party line and I was always amazed that my grandmother could tell the rings apart. Plus I laughed when she groused about the neighbor who was always eavesdropping.
But it was a very big deal because we could now talk directly to them plus they had a way to reach out if there was an emergency. The only people calling in those days were friends and family. Sadly, that has changed tremendously in our fast paced world with ever changing technology.
On my landline at home, I would venture to say that 95% of the calls I get are from someone wanting to sell me something, asking for a “charitable” contribution, or the scammers wanting to steal my money and my identity. The phone has changed from being our lifeline to friends and family to a sales tool, and more importantly, it gives crooks and thieves a safe way to steal from you while you sit comfortably inside your house. The scammers want either your real money or want to steal your Medicare dollars and that is why seniors are such a target.
What can you do? First, use your answering machine to screen your calls. In other words, never answer the phone unless you hear a message from someone you know. Secondly, prepare a script. Think through how you handle these calls and prepare something in writing. Here are some ideas for you:
- If the call is from a charity, tell them to send you info in writing. Be sure and add that you do not give money to strangers over the telephone.
- If they are selling something, ask for information in writing. If this is a one time opportunity, tell them you do not make decisions over the phone. And repeat that they should send the information to you by mail.
- Ask the caller for their name, the name of their company, and their call back number. Tell them you will get back to them after you verify the offer.
Most importantly, LISTEN for these red flags:
- Are they asking for credit card information?
- Are they asking for banking information?
- Are they asking for personal information like your Medicare or Social Security numbers?
- Offer is only good today. A real company will give you time to think and verify.
- They know something about you but need to verify the correct information.
- If any of these are happening…HANG UP!
If you have questions about any offers or calls you get, feel free to contact me at 713-341-6184.