Pretexting: A Scam that Give Identity Thieves Your Info Just by Asking for it

Watch out for scammers who call claiming to represent your financial institution. Some scammers call and claim to be with your student loan holder or with your bank or credit card company. The scam artist will then proceed to ask if you will answer some questions about your satisfaction with the company. Such surveys usually include questions that help your questioner figure out your Social Security Number, birth date, account number, and other information. You may be asked to “confirm” your account number by repeating it to the questioner, or for “security purposes” give your birth date and/or Social Security Number.

All of these attempts at getting your identifying information are couched in a five to ten minute survey that sounds like an actual customer satisfaction survey. Some scam artists are so together that they have some people call back a few days later and ask if you did, in fact, take the survey, as a verification of records. All of this follows general survey guidelines for many companies that conduct legitimate customer satisfaction surveys. And, because new Internet telephony makes it easy to establish a “local” phone number, it is possible for your Caller ID to show an actual phone number rather than a “block name” or “out of area” message. A scammer across the country, in Canada, in South America, or in Europe can set up an Internet phone number that looks like it is relatively close by, and therefore more credible, with a little help from Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.

These attempts seem so legit that many people forget about the entire episode soon after. They do not even realize that they have given their information to a scammer, and only find out the problem when their accounts are mysteriously depleted, or their credit has been dragged through the mud due to fraudulent loans and credit cards under their names.

Many financial institutions do conduct customer satisfaction surveys. Many of these surveys are merely attempts to improve service. However, no legit company will ask you for your personal information, beyond verifying that you are over 18 and that you are a customer of the institution. There is no need for a proper survey to take down your account number or Personal Identification Number as part of a satisfaction survey. Be on your guard, and never give out personal information in a phone call that you did not initiate. And even if you initiate the call, be careful about what you tell others.

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