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“Stay Off My Line!”: A Holiday Guide to Keeping Your Family Scam-Free

Today’s guest post is by Beth Wilson, Executive Assistant and Office Manager at First Orion.

The shrill ring of my mother’s cell phone erupted on a warm and lazy Sunday afternoon.  I was telling her some story about myself and trying to sit as still as possible, so I would not break a sweat in the stale air of her newly-inhabited retirement center apartment.  No need to have the air conditioner running for no good reason, right?

My mom has always been a pragmatic, no-nonsense type of gal and this attribute has truly ripened with age.   At 81, I have witnessed her “holding her own” in the grocery store line after listening to the young couple’s conversation ahead of us who are now completely informed about the abominable life they live.  Or the time she slowly made her way across the Wal-Mart parking lot while loudly proclaiming disgust to an apparently well-abled woman who had just taken “our” parking space.

So I should not have been startled when a woman who grew up on a rural party line, still uses her landline, and refused to give up her flip phone moved with out-of-character speed to grab her cell phone on the other side of the room.  Silence ensued the moment she grasped it.

Not paying close attention, I continued to tell my story when she started dialing the phone.  My instant thought was, “How rude!  I’m still talking!”.  It soon became apparent as I heard my mother screaming into the phone, “Now, you stay off my line!  I told you to stay off my line and you better do it this time!”

Beware telemarketers or scammers who dare to call my mother’s “line”!

Recently, I had been talking to my mother about upgrading to a smartphone so our family could send photos to her and just help her to stay more connected to and up-to-date on all of us.  How to graduate my mother to this next step suddenly became very clear to me;  I explained to her how the PrivacyStar application worked and she was so happy to hear that there was actually a viable option to screen telemarketer calls before answering, and have the ability to block them too!

I am honestly grateful for this application.  I really do not want my mother to have to deal with unwanted intrusion. Even though she is mostly independent and very strong-willed, I do not want her to fall prey to a scam artist trying to take her savings and her dignity!

Need help talking to your family about scam calls during the holiday season? Here are a few conversation starters:

    1. If you don’t know the number, don’t answer. Spend a few minutes with your parents and grandparents updating their contacts so they can be sure of who’s on the other line. If there are specific numbers that have been harassing them, block them using PrivacyStar.
    2. Never send money to someone you don’t know. Most of these scammers rely on urgency, so if they’re asking you to wire money right away, it’s probably not legit.
    3. Speaking of wiring money…don’t. While you’re setting up contact lists, have a family meeting and decide on alternate method of sending cash. Western Union and MoneyGram are scammer faves, so consider Square Cash or Venmo instead. Each of these apps associate payments with a phone number or email so it’s easier to make sure you’re sending money to the right person.
    4. Never, ever give out personal info. If someone calls asking for a social security number, hang up! If there’s still uncertainty, tell G-Ma to dial you in on a three-way call next time it happens. Same goes for bank account and check numbers, credit card numbers…the less the scammers know, the better.
    5. Hang up on robocall sales pitches. Dialing “1” to speak to a representative can lead to even more calls, so cut the call and report it to the FTC.
    6. Finally, sign everyone up for the FTC Scam Alerts. The more you know about these scams, the easier they are to spot.




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