Years ago, I started getting recorded phone calls from “Heather”, “Rachel” and others at “account services” about my credit card. The message never identified what credit card company it meant, nor who the cardholder was supposed to be. It just wanted me to press 1 to speak to a live operator so they could lower my interest rate. I no longer get these calls, and police have managed to catch some of the rings doing the account services scam. But the scam continues.
Identifying the Account Services Scam
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. Any credit card or bank would identify themselves by company name.
- It comes up “unknown caller” on CallerID with no phone number. Legitimate businesses don’t block their name and number.
- 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 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- My number is unpublished and I’m on the Do Not Call list.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.
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.
Solutions I tried
When this first started happening, I called the police and spoke to a detective. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much they could do because (a) no crime had been committed and (b) the caller had masked his identity by spoofing other people’s phone numbers. They couldn’t trace the call because a crime needs to have been committed before they can get a warrant.
I also called my phone company (Verizon). They couldn’t do anything to stop him either, but they do offer a paid service that blocks calls from unidentified callers. Don’t bother with this service. I tried it and it didn’t work. And when I called Verizon to ask about it, they admitted it doesn’t work hundred percent of the time. The reason it doesn’t work is that these scammers change phone numbers all time. You block one and they call you from another.
How to protect yourself
When you get one of these calls, click one to speak to an operator. As soon as he comes online, tell him you’re legally required to inform him you’re recording this telephone call. In my experience, saying that to scammers – even when it’s not true – makes them hang up very quickly. Sometimes they even stop calling you altogether, which is exactly what you want.
If you get one of these calls, please comment here. You may also want to file a complaint with the FTC or with the FCC – they both cover this type of crime. It’s a nationwide racket, and authorities 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. The police have busted at least one ring responsible for these calls, which is great, but it keeps starting up again.