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There can be dangers in good deals

The world is full of scams these days to the point that we often receive calls warning us via Caller ID that the call may be a scam call. Gone are the days when scams took the form of a man that looked like actor Frank Morgan of the “Wizard of Oz” selling adulterated alcohol as a cure for all ills from the back of a wagon and then scurrying out of town one step ahead of the sheriff.

Recently we received a call from a man purporting to represent out satellite TV provider offering a deal that was too good to ignore. The caller told me that we were candidates for big discounts, of almost 40%, on our monthly bill for two years. In addition, we would also receive five premium channels and NFL Sunday Ticket for free for the same period. When I asked him why they were being so generous, he replied that it was because the company was losing many customers to streaming services, other satellite providers and cable companies. That might be true but would any company doing business with the public admit they are in danger of bankruptcy or going out of business?

To reap these discounts and get a $100 VISA gift card all I had to do was pay the first four months of the discounted bill by 8 p.m. on that day. However, I couldn’t pay with a credit or debit card. It had to be an Apple Gift Card which I could procure at several local stores. The reason given for using the Apple card was that Apple was now a sponsor or something of my satellite provider. With that card in hand, I could call the “billing” department give them the card number and my discount code and we would get all that wonderful stuff.

His story about business being bad as the reason for the discounts had raised my suspicions but after being told I could only pay using a gift card was what started the alarm bells ringing. I remembered hearing stories of grandparents being called by a supposed officer of the court informing them that a grandchild, who did not want to let their parents to know, had been picked up for DWI or related offence and was being held awaiting payment of bail with the payment to be made only with a gift card.

I finished the call and then called my satellite TV provider where I was told that they had no such program underway and followed this with a call to the Federal Trade Commission to report the incident.

A call that I’ve had several times is where the caller says they are calling from Amazon and that they wanted to verify that I had recently made a large purchase on my Amazon account.

On both occasions the purchase was in the $900 range, an amount sure to get anyone’s attention. In both cases I replied that I had not made purchases in that amount and terminated the call and made a quick trip to my computer to verify that there was nothing in that amount on my Amazon account. After the first call I contacted Amazon Customer service to verify that no such purchase had been made and was told that this was a common scam to get credit card and Amazon account information.

In this internet age a lot of our personal data is more exposed to criminals than in the past. Back in medicine shows times the scam probably was about a bottle of a fake elixir costing 25 cents.

Now scammers go for big money and they often aim at senior citizens like myself thinking that we are na”ve and easily scammed and in a few cases that might be true. In today’s world we all have to be careful because scammers know no shame.

Finally, the Federal Trade Commission website gives guidelines on avoiding scams.

1. Scammers pretend to be from an organization we know like the IRS, Social Security, Amazon, or cable providers.

2. Scammers will tell you that there is a problem with a prize or an account and that they need to verify some information.

3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately sometimes with threat of legal action if you don’t

4. Scammers will tell you that you must pay in a specific way such as a gift card.

Sometimes it’s a crazy world out there and we wonder who to trust but if we remember the above guidelines, we won’t get scammed.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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