June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My friend Ben Rothke in his excellent article lists five specific scams (“Ring, Ring. Who’s There? Scammer Calling” July 9, 2020). Number 6 is just around the corner. Here’s another approach to avoiding scams.

My first (and only) rule: Never participate in any transaction that you did not initiate.

First some background: The first point I wish to discuss is focus. As you go about your day-to-day life you have lots of things on your mind—as it should be. The problem is that whoever is out there wanting to do you harm is focused on only one thing—hurting you! Let me relate a story about focus. Something I call The Farfel Theory.

The Farfel Theory:

Here’s the scenario—a 1-year-old puppy, “Farfel,” and a 50-something visiting college professor. As I left for work I told the college professor not to let the dog out… Within 10 minutes the dog has escaped. Why? Because Farfel was focused on getting out, and the professor was focused on many other things.

So what? So while you are focused on living life, doing whatever it is that you’re doing, there may be bad guys (or gals) out there looking to take advantage of you.

Again, the scammer is focused on scamming you—they are well practiced, they will pick the time and place to encounter you. They will deliver their message, catching you unawares.

So what should you do?

Knock on the door: Look before you open the door. If engaged, say “No thank you,” then close and lock the door.

Letter: usually safe to ignore. If from an institution you know, look up their phone number (don’t rely on the number in the letter) and contact them if you feel the need to verify.

Email: Don’t open email from addresses you don’t recognize. Never click on any links.

Phone call: Tell them you’re busy and ask for their phone number so you can call them back.

If they say it’s an emergency or try to continue the conversation—hang up! If you do choose to call back, verify the number first—you can simply type it into a search engine and see what feedback
you get.

Also, make sure the area code is in the U.S.—there are scams related to calling expensive third-world phone numbers. If they claim to be your bank, call back using the phone number that you have in your files—not the number that the caller provided.

Robocall: Personally, the “do not call” registry hasn’t worked. Today, when I get a call, I lift the receiver, or press the “speaker” button and say nothing. If it’s a robocall, after about five seconds they’ll hang up. If it’s a real caller, they’ll probably begin by saying hello.

Your telephone service provider may provide call-blocking functionality to block specific numbers. Finally, do not rely on caller ID; the number shown may be manipulated and false.

Charities: If you are unsure, look them up on https://www.charitynavigator.org/  before committing or donating. As much as you might want to give, resist the “Can I put you down for $18?”

Never be pushed into doing something that makes you uncomfortable. (Rule #2?)

Never participate in any transaction that you did not initiate.

Carl Singer
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