Dear Action Line: Recently I received a call from a women claiming to be from the Social Security office. She claimed there was an alert on my account and my benefits were going to be redirected to a different address. I was then asked to verify my correct address and banking information over the phone.
While on the phone, I had another incoming call from my neighbor, so I put the caller on hold. As I talked with my neighbor, she convinced me that it was not a good idea to share my personal information over the phone, and advised me to call the Social Security office on my own. I took my neighbor's advice and ended the conversation with the caller.
The next day I called the Social Security office and was told the agency would never call and request information from you --and you should never give out such information. I was also reassured there was no problem with my address or account for Social Security.
I am the type of person that only answers calls from area codes that I recognize. This habit was developed to avoid receiving telemarketing calls that usually are from different area codes. But I am concerned because the latest call that I received was a local area code.
Dear reader: It sounds like your neighbor may have saved you from becoming the next victim of a scam. Unfortunately, thousands of people every year are not so lucky and lose money to telephone scams.
Scammers often use the names of legitimate government agencies and businesses you trust to steal your money. When you are pressured to give out your personal information like credit card or Social Security number, it's likely a scam. After ending the call, report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.
If you don't want a business to call you again, register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Here are a few red flags from the Federal Trade Commission to help you spot telemarketing scams.
* You've been specially selected (for this offer).
* You'll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
* You've won one of five valuable prizes.
* You've won big money in a foreign lottery.
* This investment is low-risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
* You have to make up your mind right away.
* You trust me, right?
* You don't need to check our company with anyone.
* We'll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.