The skill level of those seeking to steal from you is continuing to improve and thus it is more difficult to know when to trust and when to run. During the last year or so, I would periodically come home to find a message on my answering machine. The message claimed my credit was fine, but they were calling to offer an opportunity.
While I am generally not a skeptic, phone pitches usually go the way of the delete button. Sadly, this past week I must have been in a weakened state. Instead of deleting the message, I returned the call. That was the start of a terrible mistake.
For those who want to know the bottom line, if you have a similar message, delete it and you will be fine. For those who find themselves in a similar weakened state and return the call, be prepared to speak with a friendly and very knowledgeable person. While I was weakened, my guard was still up. The offer was to lower the interest rate on a credit card with a balance.
Before I agreed to give them any information, they confirmed the expiration date of the card, balance, interest rate and credit limit. Since I retain all of my statements and shred anything with personal or private information, their credibility increased but I still was not certain. They also explained they were hired by the credit card company to make lower interest rate offers in order to retain better customers rather than lose them to balance transfers.
The individual continued their conversation and said they were going to verify the card company would confirm the lower rate. After a few minutes, they confirmed I qualified for the lower rate. While I do not remember the figures they provided, they estimated the new interest cost and the amount of savings the new rate would provide.
They wanted to confirm the account number and then they claimed a supervisor would call back within the hour. I asked, “Shouldn’t they already have the account number?” They claimed the credit card companies blocked out the balance of the account number and all they had were the initial numbers. I asked for the initial number and confirmation of my address which they provided. While I may have thought better of it, I provided the account number but would not provide the three digit security code.
They asked for an alternate number just in case I was out. Again, I declined to provide additional information. In my case, the gentleman thanked me again and said I would receive a confirmation call, then provided their name, phone number and extension.
While the entire call was professional and they clearly appeared to have access to my information, I still wanted to be cautious. I immediately called the number they provided just to confirm the company. My call was answered by an automated service and placed on music hold until a customer service agent was available. Sadly, my call was never answered and eventually was dropped. The first true red flag!
My next call was to my credit card company and they confirmed no outside service was hired to offer lower rates. They were disturbed by the amount of information the caller had, but they confirmed nothing had been charged to my account. I requested the incident be noted on my account in order to prevent unauthorized charges from occurring or being approved.
It was not long before the “supervisor” was calling to confirm the lower rate. The supervisor stated my new lower rate was confirmed and once again provided an amount of my interest savings. They said not to worry if I saw that amount on my next statement. Now I knew I was being conned since future interest charges should not be charged. I immediately stated no charge was authorized and the supervisor claimed in fact I had authorized the charge and that it had already been made. I hung up and started to call the card company back, but almost immediately my phone rang again and it was the “supervisor” again. He once again maintained I had authorized the charge.
I was fortunate and avoided inappropriate charges to my account and have since closed the account. If a scam can get this close to a professional who is alert to potential cons, for the unsuspecting they are almost guaranteed to be successful. Be cautious and always confirm credit card offers by calling the card company.
For assistance with portfolio allocations, insurance, estate planning, or investment management contact me at Quality Financial Concepts or one of the other Certified Financial Planners in our area. To continue a personal quest for education, you can also view our learning center on our website, www.goqfc.com. There you will find articles on a variety of topics, on-line seminars, calculators, as well as a host of other free tools.