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How to handle a phone scam

Telephone scams remain one of the biggest threats to consumers and their finances. Callers will talk fast and act friendly, promising a free gift, prize or vacation - all they need is to obtain your account information.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are things you can do to recognize phone scams and protect yourself from them - as well as avoid making costly mistakes.

Scammers will use every tactic imaginable to obtain your information. Often they hook consumers with an offer, deal or prize that seems too good to pass up. They also may offer to lower your credit card interest rates or consolidate your loan debt. Anyone can be a potential target and not realize it - until it is too late.

If you know for sure it is a phone scam, the best thing to do is to say "no thank you" and hang up. Other tips for handling a phone scam, recommended by the Federal Trade Commission, include the following:

  • Ask who is calling, and why. Telemarketers must tell you that it is a sales call and what they are selling. If they do not do this, you have a right to ask for the information.
  • Request that they speak slower and give you time to consider the offer. Phone scams often take advantage of fast-talking and pressure tactics. Do not fall for it.
  • Refuse to pay if something is "free." Don't pay for something just because you get a free gift. Keep credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers to yourself. If they ask you to confirm them, it is a trick and could be considered an agreement to charge those accounts.
  • Check out charities before you donate. Make sure the cause is legitimate and ask how much of your contribution actually goes toward the charity. Ask them to send you written information instead of agreeing on the phone.

It also may be beneficial to add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers who call individuals on this registry are breaking the law.

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