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Teach you how to avoid phone scams

Whether a phone scammer is enticing you to save money on your utilities, threatening to shut off your electricity unless you pay an outstanding bill immediately, or pitching an unbelievably “low-cost” vacation opportunity, the most important thing you can do is to simply hang up the phone. This is easier said than done, as many older Americans don’t want to seem impolite. But Parshall says it’s vital to get over that fear.

“We tell people to screen their calls and not pick up unless they recognize the number,” says Parshall. “And if you did pick up, the second someone asks for any personal information or anything to do with money, just hang up. Don’t feel bad about it—you did not invite them in. They’re entering your space.”

If you have entered into a conversation with someone who is trying to sell you a product or convince you to engage in a service, tell them you need some time to think about it. No legitimate offer or service is going to evaporate after you hang up the phone.

“If something sparks your interest, hang up anyway, do your own research and run it by a family member or friend,” says Parshall. “Sometimes just hearing yourself say it out loud is enough to give you pause.” Giving yourself time also allows your more rational urges to kick in.

And remember that no legitimate company is going to limit your payment method, which is what Utility Savings Expert did. They claimed they could not receive payment by check or credit card—only wire transfers.

Similarly, a legitimate operation will never ask you to volunteer personal information, like your Social Security number or even account data. That’s another huge red flag. If your utility company, for example, needed to contact you for an outstanding balance, they would never do it over the phone until you’d received numerous written notices from them. And even then, they would never ask you to offer personal information. If you are concerned, hang up and call your utility company using the number indicated on your written statement.

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