Phone calls from false collection agencies and even calls from different numbers claiming to be the Social Security Administration have made me extremely suspicious every time my phone rings. The protocol for the landline is to let it ring long enough for the answering machine to answer. If it is someone you know, and it is urgent, they will start leaving a message. Once you have ascertained the legitimacy of the call, there is plenty of time to pick up the phone and let the caller know you can talk. If it is not important or it was a telemarketer, the person (or robot) on the other line probably won’t leave a message and will hang up. It is a shame that such screening of all calls is necessary, but not screening the calls will waste inordinate amounts of time and could actually be dangerous. It is easy to see why so many people have forsaken a landline altogether and just rely on their cell phone for communication.
The cell phone is becoming as much or more of an annoyance than landlines. It used to be you could tell when the person calling you was asking for money or running a scam, the area code from far away was a dead giveaway. Now the scammers are more savvy. Somehow, tricksters are able to make their call look as though it is coming from your local area code. I have gotten so many unwanted calls on my cell phone that I will rarely answer a call unless it is from someone whose number I have stored in my phone with a name. The other callers can just leave me a message.
One message that I got this past week said it was from the Department of Social Security. The caller said that my Social Security number had been suspended because of suspicious activity. I was instructed to dial one to speak to someone about this. Instead I went to Google and searched for “calls from the Department of Social Security.” The Federal Trade Commission web page lets Americans know to beware of callers who say your Social Security number is suspended. Your Social Security number isn’t suspended. Ever. The date of the article is from September 2018. I am surprised it took the scammers who are doing this sort of thing almost a year to try their scam in our area.
I am sure I am not the only one to receive this type of call. Remember to never give out or even confirm your personal information on the phone with someone who called you. Get their name and number and do some investigating about their story. Better yet, find the number of the agency the caller says they are from by doing an Internet search and call the agency yourself later. This type of scam persists because enough people give away sensitive information when told a story that has some believable elements in it. Don’t be a victim. Heck, just don’t answer the phone in the first place.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.