A Call from “U.S. Customs and Border Protection”

Telephone scam alert

By JUSTIN LAVELLE

Imagine this: You get a call from someone who identifies themselves as a border official telling you that your Social Security number was being used to try and obtain a passport.

The “official” says all the right things: you aren’t being investigated, but he needs your help to nab the person who is.

Here are some red flags that can help you decide whether a caller is legitimate or not, and to protect yourself from being the victim of a telephone scam.

Telephone call
Legitimate institutions like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not telephone you to notify you about an issue with your Social Security number or identity theft. Hang up.

Threats
At no time would a legitimate agency threaten you with prosecution via a telephone call.

Time pressure
In this tactic, the caller tells you to provide the information they need within minutes or face prosecution. This is meant to frighten you into sharing data quickly before you have time to consider the legitimacy of the request.

Another red flag is when you are told you have X-amount of time to cooperate, but that time window shifts as the call continues.

They warn not to talk to others
Scammers may tell you not to communicate with others for fear of compromising their efforts to “catch the bad guys.” They may make you feel like you’re a member of the team, however, law enforcement of any type isn’t in the business of bringing civilians in on the action. Life isn’t a movie.

Caller ID
Caller ID is not a safe way to identify a caller as fake numbers can be displayed. You can also look up the phone number on Google or use a reverse phone number app to see if others have reported the number as a telephone scam.

Gift cards
They ask you to drive somewhere nearby and buy them a gift card or Google Play card. But how is that going to help you deal with your identity theft situation?

Protect yourself by being wary of calls that come in on your cell phone in particular. If you feel that a call might be legitimate, ask for the person’s name and hang up and call the organization in question directly.

Trusting someone to ID themselves over the telephone is a sure way to lose your money, your identity and your sense of safety.

Justin Lavelle is Chief Communications Officer for
Been Verified (beenverified.com) and an expert on
phone scams.
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