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Scams: I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me

By Tamar Yonah
11/20/2008, 12:00 AM

I thought I'd do a bit of public service, and post this forwarded email I received today from a listener named Stella.  One never knows when a scam might happen to them.

(I don't know where this report came from so I cannot credit the writer.  If anyone knows, I will be happy to give full credit.)

Crimes via Text Messaging

"A woman has changed her habit of how she lists her names on her mobile phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag,  which contained her cell phone, credit  card, wallet, etc.was stolen. Twenty  minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says 'I received your text asking
about our Pin number  and I replied a little while ago.'
When  they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had  actually used the stolen cell phone to text hubby' in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account.

Moral of the lesson:  do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list.  Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby,Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc.  ... and very importantly, when sensitive info is asked of you through texts,  CONFIRM by calling back.

Also, when receiving  a text from your friends or family to meet them somewhere that is not planned or usual, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you  don't reach them, be very careful about
going places to meet 'family and friends' who text you."

My addition: If you are in Israel, be very careful about this, that you are not lured by Arab terrorists posing as a contact of yours, to meet them somewhere. This has happened already once with a young man who was lured through computer chat, by an Arab young woman to meet him, and was then taken away in a car and kidnapped. They found his body later on.)

Another story that actually happened to me personally, about 2 years ago....  I was reading one of those emails that warned people about a phone scam where someone would call and tell you that one of your family members was in an automobile accident and was rushed to the hospital.  They told you that they had no details, but that you must immediately call a special number to find out where he/she was taken and what condition they were in.  In actuality, this number they gave you and asked you to dial was a number that enabled call forwarding.  For Americans, I believe the number they told you to dial was 72# followed by other numbers.  In Israel, I believe it is *72.  When this number is dialled, the customer is billed for the forwarded calls, which could include additional collect or long distance charges. In America, there was a scam that involved prisoners calling from an inmate facility.  They also manipulated people with this story to gain access to your phone line to make long distance calls.

         PHONE SCAMS

I remember reading that email, thinking, hmmm, what will people do next?  And then deleting it thinking these things never happen to me.  Well, I was wrong.  It was about half a year later that I received a telephone call in the afternoon from a man, with an Arab accent, telling me that one of my family members was rushed to the hospital, that he had no details other than that I must call a certain number to get more details.  My first thought was my parents...  that perhaps something had happened to them, but then I remembered that they were away in the USA visiting their other grandchildren.  That canceled them out, and I knew they were safe.  The next panic-y thought I had was my children, even though they didn't drive at that time. Perhaps one of them had left school early, traveled to Jerusalem for some reason and somehow was involved in an accident? All these thoughts racing through my mind, but something didn't feel right, it was too vague, and my kids schedule just didn't fit this situation.  It was then that that email snapped back into my memory, and I realized I was being conned.  

To my personal training, (I try to teach or psych myself out, that in times of danger, not to panic, but to get angry.  Panic or fear, tends to make one freeze and not function correctly.  Anger makes one bold and to take charge. To my delight, my personal psych training kicked in and I got angry.  From somewhere in me, I yelled at this caller that I knew what he was doing, that it was a sin, and that Allah would curse him for his evil. He was in shock, expecting me to be needy or in hysterical fear, instead I continued raising my voice and telling him how I hoped he would suffer for his evil, and that his Allah should curse him, and curse him and curse him.  - he answered, "lamah?" which means, 'why? in Hebrew.  What audacity!  I continued to unfurl even more of my anger on him for his evil acts and chutzpah.  I was surprised myself at how I was raising my voice and being so forceful.  One of my kids was home from school already and even he looked up to see who was his mother hollering at on the phone. There was silence on the other end of the phone line, I guess he was speechless, not knowing what to say or do, and he hung up. 

So, well, it actually happened to me!  And that is why I ask you to pass these messages and warnings around (after you check on sites like Snopes.com etc.) to warn others.  I thought it would never happen to me.  It did.  And if someone didn't think to send me that email going around, who knows what would have happened? 

   "Hello? Is your Mommy there? No? Well, we have bad news, your mommy has been in an awful car accident and she was taken to the hospital.  You have to dial this number to find out where she is...."

After I had hung up, I was grateful that I had answered that phone call, and not one of my children. If I was not home and they had received a phone call like that, telling them that their parents were in an automobile accident and were in the hospital, -what trauma, fear and panic they would have gone into.  -Forget now, about the phone bill I'd be paying, that doesn' t compare to the trauma it would have caused my kids. It would be unforgivable to put them through something like that. I feel bad for all the other kids who have answered phone calls like this.

AT&T offers the following to warn the public about the 72# telephone scam:

"If you receive a call seeking assistance and asking you to dial numbers, be very leery. Educate family members not to accept collect calls from someone they don't know and not to follow instructions given by a caller they are unfamiliar with.

If an AT&T residential customer believes that they have been a victim to the 72# scam, they should first dial 73# on their telephone to deactivate the call forwarding feature.

If an AT&T residential customer feels like they have been victim of a phone scam, they should contact a AT&T customer service representative. Customers of other local telephone providers should call their respective customer service numbers."

Anyone have any other scams that we should all be aware of?  Please check them first on places like Snopes.com before passing on.  You could be helping someone just like me, and I am grateful to whoever sent me that email years ago.  

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I just remembered another scam...

Always make sure when paying by credit card, that when you give the card to be swiped by the cashier, that you CHECK your card when he/she hands it back. I have heard of scams, where cashiers have a set of old expired cards from different companies: MasterCard, Visa, AmEx, etc... and when they take your card, and you are not watching, maybe you are scrambling around in your purse or wallet, or taking the new bag of your purchases off the counter, they take your card and hand you back an old expired card of someone else's.

Most people don't look, and just take the card handed to them, and stick it back in their wallet.

ALWAYS make sure, when you get your card back, that you check to see that YOUR name is on the card, and that it is not a replaced, stolen, old, card of someone else's.