Yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call. It was one of those robo or automated calls with a recording that identified itself as:
"This is account services calling to offer you a lower interest rate on your credit cards, if you sign up today..."
Of course, this sounded like a scam because, a) the extreme time-sensitive demand and, b) the caller never mentioned their company or bank name.
To learn a little more about this scam, I pressed "1" when prompted to speak with a live customer service representative. I wanted to ask more questions to collect information about this scam. The person on the phone said:
"Hi This is Ryan. I work with Visa and MasterCard. I'd like to help you lower your credit card interest rate. First, I need you to tell me some information about yourself."
I said hello, thanked Ryan for the phone call, and politely asked what company he worked with. Ryan replied, "Visa and MasterCard."
I replied that that I needed to know more. I need to know what company or bank he worked at since his answer didn't tell me. So, I asked him again, what company he worked at.
Ryan hung up the phone.
A word to the wise seems appropriate. If a caller cannot properly identify their self or their employer, don't do business with them. I was prepared to hear more of Ryan's pitch so I could share details about this scam on this blog, but Ryan realized I was on to his scam and he hung up the phone. I doubt Ryan was his real name. More likely, this was a phishing scam to trick consumers to either reveal their sensitive personal information (e.g., name, address, birth date), bank account numbers, and/or credit card numbers, or to sign up for an expensive, unnecessary credit reduction plan.
According to an alert from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
"The companies behind the sales pitches claim to have special relationships with credit card issuers. They guarantee that the reduced rates they offer will save you thousands of dollars in interest and finance charges, and will allow you to pay off your credit card debt three to five times faster. They claim that the lower interest rates are available for a limited time and that you need to act now."
The FTC emphasizes that these companies cannot do anything for consumers that you can do yourself for free. You can negotiate directly with your credit card issuer for a lower interest rate. If you receive a phone call like this, the FTC suggests that consumers do not give out any personal information and simply hang up.
Moreover, this robo-caller was breaking the law as my home phone is on the Do Not Call list. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the company name. Otherwise, I would have reported this phone fraud to the FTC.
The other question I use to flush out scam artists and fraudsters is to ask them for their phone number because I am busy but want to call them back later. They usually hang up at that point, too. If you want to learn more about how to recognize phone scams, visit the FTC Phone Fraud website.