As I look back over the last 20 years, I am amazed at how technology has put the specifics of our lives in the forefront. Unless we know what to do and how to protect ourselves, anyone in any country can gain access to whatever they want. From our social security numbers to dates of birth to our credit reports, our lives have literally become an open book for anyone with the desire to read it.
I experienced something yesterday that frightened me and showed me just how determined scammers are to take over our lives. I was sitting in the waiting room of a local hospital while my mother was having surgery and I heard the annoying “beep” advising that I had a voicemail message on my cell phone. Thinking it was a friend or family member calling to check on mom I listened to the message right away; however, what I heard was not a concerned family member, rather a message designed to put the fear of God into someone who doesn’t know any better. Excerpts from the message are as follows:
“My name is Donna Lewis and I am a process server. I am calling to give you notice that I will be in your area today between the 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. to serve you with a summons. There will be time sensitive documents attached, which may indicate a wage garnishment, and this may or may not pertain to you. The social security number we have is XXX-XX-XXXX. If today does not work for your schedule, please contact the attorney’s office at 855-275-8350 to reschedule. You will need to tell the attorney’s office to file an R-16 form which just lets me know the serving of the summons has been rescheduled, because I charge $75.00 each time I come out. You have been officially notified.” And then she hung up the phone.
My first reaction was “What the hell?” and then I became angry. I knew I didn’t owe anyone that much money to warrant a summons (no pun intended), and secondly I began to think about all the potential victims that may fall prey to this scheme.
As a criminal justice major, I was aware of several inconsistencies with this phone call. First, a process server will never call to arrange a time to serve a warrant – the Sherriff’s office will just bring it to you in person. Secondly if there is indeed a pending summons, the plaintiff; i.e., the company suing you, will cover the cost of the summons – until of course the case is heard, at which point you may be responsible for all fees associated with your case. Finally, there is no such form as an R-16 in the legal field.
While I did not call the number left in the voicemail – I called my local police department instead – I can only assume the voice on the other end would have found some way to attempt to get money out of me. Well, the joke is on them because the well is dry!!! In any event, based on this experience, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone of several things:
- Never, never, never give any personal information to anyone over the phone. Did I say NEVER? Let’s hear it one more time….NEVER!!!
- Do not assume the person calling is who they say they are. If they claim to be from a bank or credit card company and ask you to verify your information, DO NOT DO IT. Companies such as this will not call and ask you to confirm anything over the phone.
- If the caller becomes belligerent with you or threatens to have you arrested simply hang up. It is illegal for legitimate debt collectors to do this.
Further tips on protecting your identity can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov or by contacting your local law enforcement agency.
In conclusion, here is one final message to all the scammers out there: GET OVER YOURSELF AND STOP TRYING TO TAKE WHAT DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU. Take one minute and think about how your mother or child would feel if they lost everything because of someone else’s greed.
We’re on to you and we’re not going to take it anymore!!!