Post Your Problems/Lawrence Walsh: Don't give credit data on phone

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Politicians of every persuasion are in full bray about the upcoming presidential election.

So are scammers.

Be alert for robo calls that offer a "free cruise" for taking a political survey, fundraising calls designed to pick your pocket or purse instead of supporting the candidate of your choice, and calls to verify your eligibility to vote.

"Scammers use incentives based on what they think voters want to hear," warns the Better Business Bureau. Although crooks may ask about the economy, health care and unemployment, they could use "anything in the news that makes their pitch sound more realistic."

For example, don't let the "free cruise" scheme sink your savings.

"This public opinion poll scam typically involves a recorded announcement offering a 'free cruise' in exchange for participating in a telephone survey," the BBB said. "At the end of the call, consumers are asked for a debit or credit card number to cover 'port fees' and taxes.

"Consumers who hesitate or ask if they can call back in order to verify the caller's identity are subject to high-pressure tactics, such as being told that the offer 'is only good right now' and that if they hang up they will be disqualified."

What to do?

Hang up the phone.

"Legitimate polling companies will never offer prizes for participating in a telephone survey or ask for a credit card number," the BBB said.

The bureau said consumers have reported receiving fundraising calls for political donations from organizations that sound legit, but may not be related to either the Obama or Romney campaigns.

"If you aren't sure, don't donate over the phone," it said. "Requesting a call-back number is no guarantee you will be connected with a legitimate campaign fundraising committee."

Instead of providing financial information to a caller, the BBB urges consumers to call the candidate's local headquarters or visit the candidate's website to learn how to make a donation.

If someone calls to "verify" your eligibility to vote, especially in Pennsylvania where there's more than enough confusion among seniors about obtaining the proper photo ID before entering their polling places, hang up the phone.

"Your voter registration record is with your state and no [legitimate individual] is going to call or email you to verify your eligibility," the BBB said. And what do these crooks want to verify? Why, just your credit card and/or Social Security number.

Unless you have made the call and are confident dealing with the person who answers, never provide any personal information over the phone.

It's none of their business -- because it's all yours.

Information: www.pittsburgh.bbb.org; 412-456-2700.

yourbiz - larrywalsh

Lawrence Walsh can be reached at pyp@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1895. Please include your day, evening and cell phone numbers. Due to volume, he cannot respond to every email and phone call.


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