It seems like twice per day I get a telephone scam call from area code “208”. Usually it’s an automated message saying, “The warranty on your vehicle is about to expire…” I don’t have a warranty on any of my vehicles, they are too old to be covered by any kind of warranty.
The second most common scam call that I get is an automated message saying, “This is the Social Security Administration, your Social Security Card has been stolen and will be cancelled…”
The vehicle warranty scam is probably an attempt to get people to purchase an automobile warranty. The Social Security scam is probably what is known as “phishing”, trying to obtain enough personal information from someone in order to steal their identity, full name, date of birth, address, Social Security number.
Yesterday I received a phone call from area code “208”, the caller ID display on my phone read Nampa, Idaho. This call was an automated message saying, “This is the utility company, your electric service is scheduled to be disconnected in 30-40 minutes due to non-payment, to speak to a representative, press 1.”
I live in North Dakota, but I own a house in Idaho, and I have been late paying my electric bill in the past because I forgot to pay it. It wouldn’t surprise me to get a telephone call from the utility company saying that they were about to disconnect my electric service. Fortunately, a day or two before I received this scam call, I received an email confirmation from my utility company in Idaho notifying me that my payment had been received.
Had I fallen for this scam, and given the fake utility company representative my credit card number, expiration date, and security code in order for them to bill my credit card to prevent my electric service from being disconnected, there is no telling now much money they would have electronically transferred. One of my credit cards has a little over $20,000 available on it, would my credit card company electronically transfer this much money? Would I be liable to pay up to $20,000 in fraudulent credit card charges?
In the past, I have called my credit card issuers to try to find out from them under what circumstances is a card holder liable for fraudulent charges. In summary, what I found out is that you had better notify the credit card company immediately if you think that you were involved in any type of scam that could result in fraudulent charges to your credit card, hopefully before any funds have been electronically and irretrievable transferred.
Calling a credit card company to report a possible fraudulent transaction on your credit card, and actually admitting to them on this recorded phone conversation that you personally gave a scammer your credit card information, could in their minds be taken as a breach of their “card holder agreement” that you keep your credit card and credit card information secure. ( I am giving this warning, because I have had both banks and credit card company representatives try to tell me that they are not responsible for fraudulent transactions, contrary to what U.S. Law states. Sometimes I think that these low-level representatives believe that they are going to be a hero in the eyes of their company for refusing to reimburse customers for fraudulent transactions, thus saving their company money.)
From time-to-time, local newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and utility companies will make public service announcements advising people to be on the alert for possible phone call scams in their area, from people claiming to represent a utility company. I telephoned both the Idaho County Sheriffs Office and Idaho Power Company to tell them about the scam phone call that I had received, and I asked them if they could possibly make a public service announcement warning people.
Both the Sheriffs Office and Idaho Power Company knew that the phone number that was displayed on my caller ID from this scammer means nothing, the scammers have a way to change the caller ID to any number they want. At the moment, there was really no way for myself, the Sheriffs Office, or Idaho Power Company to determine where and from who this scam phone call originated.
Eventually, probably within a week or two, credit card companies will have received enough complaints about credit card charges being paid to a particular merchant enrolled in an electronic funds transfer service, that further credit card charges from this merchant will be denied. However, this particular fraud scam merchant can create additional phony businesses with new electronic funds transfer services, and keep right on going unless the Police have been able to physically grab hold of him.
I would like to be able to stop this kind of phone scam right away, especially because the poor and the elderly are the most vulnerable to being tricked into believing that their electric service is about to be disconnected. But what can a person do, there is no way to even determine where these phone calls are coming from?
I highly recommend NOT using your own credit card to play along with this scam in order for them to process your credit card using their merchant electronic funds transfer service, so that you can then call your credit card company to report this charge as fraudulent and a scam. The credit card company representative that you speak to may not have any interest whatsoever in the attempted good dead that you tried to do, and won’t take any action other than processing your request to “dispute” these charges.
The main point of me writing this particular blog post article, is to get as many people as possible interested in my solution to this problem which I explain below. This would benefit everyone, Law Enforcement, and especially the credit card companies.
If current credit card holders with good credit, who have had their Visa or Mastercard for five years or more, could be offered or could request, a “Red Tag Visa or Mastercard” that was to be used only for the purpose “Flagging” phone call scammers as soon as possible, the phone call scammers would be shut down in about an hour, and they could not continue. I will explain why, and how this would work.
The “Red Tag Visa or Mastercard” would be white or neon in color, something that could not be accidentally confused with a normal credit card. It would have a standard credit card number, expiration date, and security code, but the credit card issuer would have this card identified as a “Red Tag Card” able to be processed, acting like funds will be transferred, but ultimately never release funds, only document the scam merchant’s electronic funds transfer service, and block this scam merchant after one or two of these “Red Tag Card” processing attempts.
A “Voice Broadcast Dialer” a.k.a. “Robo Dialer” in combination with a multi-line phone system can make thousands of calls per hour. If 1 out of 1,000 adults requested or accepted one of these “Red Tag Visa or Mastercard” credit cards, within one hour at least one of these “Red Tag Card” holders would be a recipient of one of these scam calls. By a voluntary “Red Tag Card” holder taking a few minutes to allow their card to be processed, that particular scam merchant’s electronic funds transfer service would become “flagged” and blocked by the credit card company within an hour.
There are several reasons why this “Red Tag Card” program would be beneficial to everyone, Law Enforcement, and credit card companies: 1) Alert adults would identify this phone call scam immediately, allow their “Red Tag Card” to be processed, and this scam merchant would be “flagged” and blocked by the credit card companies within an hour. 2) Law Enforcement would not have to receive complaints for days and days from elderly or confused people after being swindled, the “Red Tag Card” people would have stopped the whole thing within an hour. 3) The credit card companies would not have to deal with complaints from elderly or confused people for days, attempting to dispute charges, because the “Red Tag Card” holders would have stopped the thing within an hour. 4) The credit card companies would experience fewer financial losses if the “Red Tag Card” holders “flagged” phone call scammers within an hour.
(Note: The credit card companies would have to formally issue the “Red Tag Card” only to known, long-time, good credit rating existing card-holders, for them to safe-guard the same as their normal credit card. This would have to be the methodology in order for “Red Tag Card” holders to understand, as they already do, that using a “Red Tag Card” to pay for legitimate goods or services received would constitute the crimes of theft and fraud, and would be legally prosecutable. If a mistake was made, and a “Red Tag Card” holder could show that they used their card in “good faith”, criminal prosecution would be less likely. In other words, “Red Tag Card” holders could be criminally and civilly liable for damages if they deliberately used this card for theft or malice.
Also, it would be more likely for existing card-holders to request or accept a “Red Tag Card” if the card-holder name on this card was fictitious. But please keep in mind, this “Red Tag Card” is formally issued to a specific, known, existing card-holder, to accept and abide by their “card holder agreement” in order to prevent its use in theft or malice. Example, using your “Red Tag Card” to order Pizza from Dominoes and getting their credit card processor blocked, you would be criminally and civilly liable for damages. )
These ideas and suggestions presented in this blog post article I hope and encourage anyone to use them, I do not claim any of these ideas or suggestions as belonging to me.
An alternate method, would be to allow known, existing, long-term credit card holders with good credit, the use of a “flagging security code”. Each normal credit card has a three or four digit security code on the either the front or the back side of the credit card, which is necessary for over-the-phone or over-the-internet transactions to be completed. Instead of using the normal three or four digit security code, using the “flagging security code” would alert the credit card company that this was a scam merchant transaction, to obtain the merchant’s electronic funds transfer service information, but not allow the release of funds.