One of the down sides of living in the communication age is the potential for one to become a victim of fraud, scams and harassment. In the United States over one million crank calls are reported annually ranging from annoying hang ups to obscene or threatening. Phone scams and fraud have ripped off a good deal of money from innocent people who thought that prize they were told they had won or that new phone service that was going to save them a bundle was bogus. Unfortunately, many realize too late that providing personal information to the individual on the other end of the line is a huge mistake. Reduce your risk of becoming a victim with "telephone troubles."
Don't Give Out Information: (Social Security Number, home address, whether you live alone, how much you earn, if you own an 80 pound guard dog -- whatever) unless you are CERTAIN or have VERIFIED that the person on the other end of the phone is legitimate (such as your credit card company) with a legitimate purpose. Your social security number is one of your most valuable possessions -- the key to your bank records, medical records, student records, etc., etc., etc. Guard it well.
Ask Questions Before You Answer Any Questions:. If you absolutely must answer that person on the other end taking a survey, ask for specific information -- Who’s sponsoring the survey? Who’s his/her supervisor’s name, telephone number, etc. and let the individual know that before you answer any questions you will verify that this is legitimate.
Wrong Numbers: Play broken record -- "You have a wrong number." No matter what the caller asks, that’s your answer. For example if the caller asks: "Well, is there a Jane Doe in your apartment building (or on the same floor in your residence hall, or in your sorority)? Is this 000-000? What number have I called? Never deviate from your broken record -- "You have a wrong number."
Take a Message -- But Never Give Out Information: Example: Jane isn’t available right now, I’ll be glad to take a message. Don’t do Jane any favors by giving out information -- where she is, what time she is expected, who she is with. Even if it’s her long lost Uncle Joe from Kalamazoo who hasn’t talked with her in ten years, take a message.
Answering Machine Messages: A convicted burglar who was interviewed for a book on preventing crime was asked how he had been so successful in choosing apartments where the residents were out while he committed his crime. His answer? A telephone directory and answering machines with the message "We’re not home right now." If that’s the message on your machine, change it. “We’re not taking calls at the moment". "We are unable to come to the phone". "Please leave a message at the tone” might be a better approach.
If You Receive A Creank Call or an Obscene Call: Don’t stay on the line and don’t talk to the caller. Most often these nuisance calls are an isolated event. When the caller doesn’t get a response, he/she usually moves on. If, however, you start receiving a series of calls, file an official report (on campus through Public Safety 843.953.5611 or if you reside off campus, the appropriate law enforcement jurisdiction). Keep a log of the calls (time of day, date, gender, background sounds, identifying accents, speech patterns, etc.) This information is extremely helpful when filing reports and initiating tracing on your phone system.
All Threatening/Harassing Calls Should Be Taken Seriously. These calls should be reported immediately.
Remember: If the person on the other end of the line is someone you aren’t sure you want to "reach out and touch" PLAY IT SAFE. Telephone troubles can affect anyone.