2024 May 7 Spam calls

May 07, 2024

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about those pesky soliciting calls and what we can do about them. So let's get started. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, and send me a message.


Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about some tips about those unwanted phone calls that you might still be getting. Yes, even on your cell phone. The whole topic of spam phone calls was driven home to me this afternoon by a call that was definitely targeting an older demographic, and that's what really caught my ear. It was from a call center, probably in India. 


The background noise was really high, and the agent's English was terrible. Not such a good start for targeting a demographic that often uses hearing aids, but that's another whole topic. What caught my attention first was this fellow's name was James, the same as mine. How nice, it's something in common.  Actually, it was probably the same as the name on the call list he was reading off of, where my public records name is James, not Jim.


You may think it's just a coincidence, saying, Come on, Jim, don't be so paranoid. Well, I had the pleasure of calling another call center later in the afternoon. What a coincidence—that Indian gentleman's name was James, too. I guess it must have been the week for James.


I'm not picking on India. Don't misunderstand me at all. There are a lot of call centers there because it's an industrious culture, and many people there speak English. They put 200 people into a huge room, and you can hear all the other people talking—saying the same pitch to somebody else, which I could hear in this particular call. This isn't picking on a culture or anything, but it's just picking on the reality of where people put a lot of call centers, because it is economical.


But, hint #1.  Don't be even a teeny bit swayed if the caller's name is the same as yours. Most likely, it really isn't their name at all. Also, never be swayed by the phone number.  In this particular case, the phone number is very similar to my area code. A lot of mass callers now completely spoof or fake the caller ID information, or they route the call through a number of small domestic phone companies, so it appears to be coming from the U.S. This is continually being investigated by the FCC, but they just can't seem to shut these few small providers down. 


But back to James #1. He was selling—no, actually he made a point—he's not selling anything. He's offering for my consideration in home health aids, including bathing, cooking, companionship, even running to the grocery stores to get groceries for me and bring them into my home.


While I have no direct interest in that, I know a few people that might, so I suggested that he send me more info in the form of an email so I could review it and share it. I'm trying to get the caller to actually send me something that has a traceable delivery history. It has a real cost that's higher than just an auto-dialed phone call. 


My goal is to get them to do something that's more tangible and more costly. Specifically, to send me either an email or send me something in the mail. Sending me something in the mail is the highest cost.  Almost nobody will ever do that. Some people will send emails, but even if they get an email, now you have something a little more expensive, something tangible that you can go with and something to see, to look them up and get more information. 


But, big hint #2, is that he was unable to do any of those things, at least not right now. He had a whole bunch of reasons why he couldn't send an email and they never mailed things.


He had to make the offer on this call. The big warning sign is, in that particular case, where only he's making the offer and it's on his call and he's doing the recording, so they have the complete record of what was said. So I asked him what they are actually providing. How much does it cost? Super warning #2—James immediately starts asking me yes/no questions. As soon as I start pushing, he starts trying to get me to say the word yes. Because yes or no questions are very obvious questions. Do you do that? Do you buy groceries? Do you eat? He's just trying to get me to say the word yes. 


Listen up. This is super important.  If you ever get a call from a questionable phone number, or it just sounds suspicious, never ever use the word yes or any other word in the affirmative, not once. 


They're recording the call, and they will edit the recording so it sounds like you said yes to some question, asking permission  to sign you up for something.  And so I'll give you some examples. 


Is this Mr. Cranston? 

Who's calling, please? 

Oh, this is X from Company Y.

Is this Mr. Cranston? 

What is this call regarding, please?  


Just answer the yes/no questions with another question. Would you like to hear more? Then reply with a question. What are the details? At this point, it was pretty clear that my new best friend James, was just a scammer, but it gets scammier. Since he gets paid by successful calls, he's getting a little impatient now. He starts telling me more details without prompting. As I mentioned above, all sorts of personal care services, right at your house, everything that makes your life comfortable.


Here's the huge, huge warning and hint #4. James #1 says, And it's all at no cost to you.  Run for the hills, which is what I did. I immediately replied, No, no, no, goodbye, and hung up.  Manners and common courtesy have no place when you have to leave in a hurry off a phone call. Just cut them off and hang up, because most likely what would have come next would be them asking for my social security and or Medicare numbers, Just so we can set up the service for you, or maybe some credit card info, To process the application fees, just to round out the whole identity theft that's going on there.


So James's presentation was pretty rough around the edges. It was not a good call center. He didn't speak well. His presentation was rough and he was obviously in a hurry, but pay attention to the hints that came up. 


Let's go through those steps and the hints once again, because it's kind of important. Somebody cold calls you with an offer that seems a little too good. You should immediately think, Why would they do that?  If you haven't signed up for anything recently, there's no reason for some super amazing offer that just shows up in your life. AARP, probably a number of people belong to that, are generally pretty careful about who they sell the name list to, and not very many people at that, it's usually their partners.


Who else are you talking to that would have your demographic information? Something to keep in mind. Next, just because, you know, to take another example, some sweet young thing named Julie calls you and asks if she can call you dear, that doesn't change the tactics. As a matter of fact, you should be even more wary, because Julie is probably working for a more polished scammer company.


Be super alert to coincidences—similar names, or they have a relative that lives near where you live, or they were in your town at one point. Anything that sounds like they're trying to endear themselves to you should raise a big red flag. It's called social engineering, and it's amazingly effective, especially if the caller is skilled.


It's particularly effective with vulnerable populations of any sort. But in this case, for older people who might be living alone, going through an illness—any sort of stressful situation, all of a sudden, here's Tom on the phone, and Tom knows what you're going through because his uncle went through the same thing!


Again, look for the coincidences, look for somebody trying to endear themselves to you by having something in common with you. Always ask for the information to be mailed or emailed to you, and when they cannot do that, you can be pretty sure that it's a scam of some sort.


If you decide to continue, however, banish the word yes from your vocabulary and all its synonyms such as yup, okay, sure—all of them have to go. Just use the word no and ask some more questions.  Then if it starts to sound too good to be real, or if they specifically say it's free or no cost, I suggest that you just bail out and say no and hang up.


Don't worry about hurt feelings or politeness—just hang up. I know it sounds rude, but they likely will have a whole script set up targeted at overcoming that first no. They will assure you it's legitimate. They aren't asking for any money. Don't believe any of it. Just leave the call.  If they call back, tell them the FBI is already on hold on the other line, and they're tracing the call.


In reality, if it does become harassment, you can actually file with a number of agencies, even up to and including the FBI. But in reality, you just want them to go away. I know everyone's probably saying, I would never fall for that.  You'd be surprised how good some of these people really are.


One of my friends had some information leaked, just from general sources. They had some public things on Facebook, etc. Their friends were scammed out of a few thousand dollars by this really slick social engineering ploy where they had obtained enough personal information about my friend and her social life to make it sound like they knew her. They went through and they talked about other things. They would use whatever other names they're having to use. Oh, I was talking to Harry, and I think he already sent some money. It's amazing the stories they can build. So before you say, I would never fall for that, remember— these people net hundreds of millions and billions of dollars each year.


I assure you, many of the people that they fooled were not fools. They're very good at what they do. It may have been a moment of weakness, or somebody just wanted to help somebody else. But if you're ever in doubt, reread the hints above, stay alert on unknown calls, and don't be afraid to just hang up and leave the call.


If you do give away any information accidentally, immediately contact the financial information—Medicare, Social Security, whoever is in charge of the information you gave away—and put an alert on your identity. I keep all my credit agencies locked all the time.


It means you can't go get a free credit card in the store or something like that. But it also means people can't use your credit card as a way to identify information to get even more information about you. If you hang up on somebody and it's a legitimate call, they'll contact you another way.


Some people I know just went through this with social security. Very unusual for social security. They actually texted somebody I know, and they hung up. Then they texted somebody related to them, and they hung up on him too. A couple of days later, they get this email from social security asking, Why'd you keep hanging up on me? They called back. This is exactly what you say we shouldn't  do. If it's legitimate like social security, they will get ahold of you another way. Otherwise, just run for the hills


That's it for the evening. Remember to be your own detective. Figure out the phone and social media scammers and beat them at their own game. Don't get fooled by social engineering tricks. They can be extremely good, shockingly good. Just remember, if something seems out of the ordinary, always confirm it with another source. They wouldn't do it, so that was the big hint.


If somebody calls on the phone and says that they're friends of a common person between the two of you, call the person they say they're friends with. Oh, I know Jane really well. Call Jane and say, Hey, do you know this person? They said that something happened in your life. If you can't go, if you can't get a hold of them,  then wait. Few things in life are that urgent. 


Your homework (always optional) is to think about a recent call you may have received that was suspicious, and think about the hints that gave it away. Go through the list up above and see how much of them match up. Now, for a little extra credit, try and practice ways of ending that call immediately, even abruptly, so it's clear that you're not a potential target.


You don't have to be rude necessarily, but you can certainly go into rude territory if need be. They're very much practicing. Wait, wait, don't go. Hang on, hang on. Just one more thing! Just say, Thank you, goodbye, and just leave immediately.


So, that's it for today. A little different than usual, but since I target our demographic, the older demographic—I've seen other scams, but this one was clearly looking for a vulnerable population. They're looking for people who would most likely need in-home care services, who probably were lonely, who probably could be easily swayed, and, and let their guard down if somebody seemed like they were going to be their friend.


Don't be that person. You might say it couldn't possibly be you, but after a long day, you're tired, and here this person comes and offers you some stuff that's really handy.  Try not to fall for it. Please remember the many ways that  people are always trying to take advantage of other people and stay alert and avoid them.


That's it for the evening. Please remember the wars that are currently active in the world, in Ukraine and the Middle East. There's a lot of things going on. As always, we have donation links for Ukraine at UKR7.com. It's all really good stuff. There's also the World Central Kitchen for disasters of any sort at WCK.org. They support people anywhere in the world with food and aid. 


Even if you can't make a donation, or you don't want to donate to one of these groups, always try and look outside yourself to other people, because one of the best ways you can care for yourself is to care for others. Even a little smile, a little word to somebody can just brighten their day and make the world a lot better place for everybody. So if you're able, check out one of the links or just make somebody's day a little nicer. 


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 

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