Please spread the word about this. Feel free to repost this anywhere you can with a link back to me. I eventually stopped getting spam phone calls from “Heather” at “Account Services” who wants to lower my credit card interest rates, but I know from commenters that this scam continues. It’s an automated message. If you want to speak to someone you press 1, at which point a man answers. The clues that this is not legitimate:
- They don’t say what credit card they’re with. A legitimate business would. You just know they’re going to ask for your account number, and suddenly you’re going to be overdrawn.
- It comes up “unknown caller” on CallerID with no phone number. Legitimate businesses don’t block their name and number. Individuals may, but not businesses.
- When you tell them you know they’re a scam and to stop calling or you’ll call the authorities, they say they’ll “talk to you tomorrow”. More on my call to the authorities in a moment. A real business would be concerned if you mistakenly thought they were a scam, and would say something like, “I assure you we’re not, but I’ll be happy to take you off our list.”
- My number is unpublished and I’m on the Do Not Call list. I don’t get telemarketing calls, so it’s a safe bet unsolicited calls that come through to me are on auto-dialers. Real businesses who have business relationships with you already have your contact info, so they don’t need to auto dial you.
- My creditors don’t have my landline, where these calls are coming in. I use my cell phone for all my business accounts. A lot of commenters have also gotten calls on phone lines they never use for business.
The problem is: not everyone will have all these clues. Some people may be so desperate to lower their interest rates in this challenging economy that they won’t be as careful as they should be.
When this first started happening, I called the police and spoke to a detective. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much they could do because the caller had masked his identity. They couldn’t trace the call because a crime needs to have been committed before they can get a warrant and all that.
I also called my phone company (Verizon). They couldn’t do anything to stop him either, but they do offer a service that blocks calls from unidentified callers. This does not block callers whose numbers come up without a name. If it does block a legitimate caller, it plays a message that tells him to hang up and dial a combination of numbers, then redial you so his number will show on Caller ID. Legitimate callers should have no problem with this. It’s an option, but I feel like one shouldn’t have to pay extra for a service to block people who are breaking laws just calling you.
Again, spread the word. If you get one of these calls, please comment here. It’s a nationwide racket, and we need to document enough complaints for police to be able to match up the cases of identity theft that will happen when someone falls for this scam.
UPDATE: on July 13, 2011, Orlando, Florida, police raided a business they believed was responsible for these calls. No doubt they did good work, but the calls still continue more than a year later. It looks like there’s more than one cell for this scam and they’re still in operation.