The Sneaky Mind of a Scammer

phonescamWhile there is a lot of coverage for the inbound phone scams, I almost got sucked into one that I had called.

When my mom passed away, I dialed the contact number to reach her personal insurance agent. While the number is ringing, I decide to also check my email but am surprised when I’m prompted to press “1” if I am over 50. I wait for the next option which turns out to be a request for discounted insurance. I’m starting to think I dialed the wrong number and hang up. I dial the number again and pay close attention. I am not greeted with “Welcome to New York Life” but hear a general greeting, then am again asked to press “1” if I’m over 50.

Apparently, someone bought the direct number for my mom’s insurance agent. I didn’t stay on long enough to find out who it was, but thought what they did was both brilliant and sneaky.

It was a simple reminder about how easy it is to get fooled. I’m thinking I’m calling my mother’s insurance agent, and had I not paid close attention, I could have provided a host of information about her that could lead to an unscrupulous person being able to steal her identity.

In general, most of us are overwhelmed by the calls coming to us. There are several ways to help protect yourselves.

It’s discouraging to find out that they agency managing the National Do Not Call Registry admits it has failed consumers. The scammers don’t play by the rules, and now technology helps them spoof the caller ID leaving me to ignore any call I don’t recognize.

Some options to help block the INCOMING calls include:

  1. Sign up for a automated service for your landline to block calls. Nomorobo is free service I can get from my local carrier, Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area. I implemented it at home and it has made a big difference. When we moved in nearly two decades ago, we opted for the unlisted number–that USED to work at keeping callers at bay.
  2. If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.
  3. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. When you answer, they know they have a valid number. Asking to be removed, or selecting the dial option they offer typically won’t yield a positive results.
  4. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. It will reject calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.


There is a new model of scams coming in as voicemail. Your phone will not ring, but a message will be left in your message center. Because there is some consideration to mandate technology to block the spoofed calls, the “no ring voicemail” is the next tool in the fraudster toolkit.

It’s discouraging that we have to be so protective of our personal information. Unfortunately, the consequences of not being our own best advocate can be financially and emotionally devastating. Scammers stink.

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