Yesterday, I almost gave out my credit card number to a phone scammer.
My cell phone rang just after 4 p.m., and though I didn’t recognize the number I chose to answer it thinking, as I do, that it might be a prospect (I run a sports marketing company and, from time to time, we receive random inquiries).
It wasn’t. Instead, it began with a recording which, in retrospect, was a sizable clue (please note that I do hang up when the message’s first words are: “Don’t hang up this call!”). But the message immediately grabbed my attention: “Because of your outstanding credit you are eligible to lower your credit card interest rate to 6%. Press 1 for details.” I pressed 1, a human being arrived.
He mentioned my credit card company, and skillfully answered my first series of questions: “How much is my interest rate right now?” “Where are you calling from?” “What department are you in?” He said my current rate was 20% and that he was in the verification unit. Plausible. Ears up, I patiently asked: “Do you have a number I can call?” He apologized, said his department can’t receive incoming calls, then clarified he was with a company that works with my credit card firm.
Suspicions aroused, I decided to stay on the line. I tried, at length, to learn the name of his firm. When pressed, he said it was “Card Member Services,” adding that “it’s printed right there on your bill.” He repeated that he was in the verification unit and asked me if my card was handy so that he could verify.
I charged ahead: “Where is your company located?” “What’s your name?” “How do you spell that?” and “Is there a way I can go to your website?”
At long last, he hung up, and while I found it mildly gratifying, it concerned me that, in another moment, perhaps fatigued or over-eager to ease financial hardships, I could easily have shared vital information.
And people are doing this every day, all over the world.
It’s remarkable how much information we encounter each day that simply isn’t true. No matter your political preferences (we receive mail from both parties, on a daily basis), it’s hard to know who to trust. I suppose it’s always been like this, but with the explosion of communication channels, it certainly seems overwhelming.
So be careful.
I hesitate to tell our children, or grandchildren, not to trust people, but there is a need these days – perhaps more than ever – to verify your sources, to resist taking things at face value. The commercials on TV these days, from every quarter, test our ability to resist.
Years ago, when one of our teenage daughters would share a piece of information, I would often ask: “Who’s your source on that?” Meaning, of course, where does that information come from? And how do we know if it’s true?
We don’t. This world is increasingly complex, and there are more voices than ever. Best thing to do? Take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt.