A while back I talked about internet scams and what to watch out for. I am vigilant about what information I give out to anyone on a regular basis. In this day of readily available technology that can track our every movement, it is important to make sure that we do not lose sight of the scams that are working their way around us.
One of the things that I do is help businesses and individuals use technology to make their everyday life more productive and streamlined. Part of that is showing them how to take credit card payments using their smartphone or tablet. I did this for my company and it made life much simpler. The other day my boss gets a call from Beth in Merchant Services asking for some information. Naturally, since I set up the system he forwards the call to me. I was on the other line so I was given a message to call. I was busy that day and had a whole lot of phone calls to make before I was able to go home so in my haste I never asked what the message was in regards to. I just called.
The phone rang a few times and a woman answered. I assumed that she was calling in reference to another company so I was all ready to talk along those lines. Beth started asking me to log into the website and get her some info. Of course, since I was thinking it was in regards to this other company nothing she was saying made any sense. After a little while, I began to understand that she was talking about the online payment processing system. I felt bad that I had made her go through five minutes of my confusion. She was kind and walked me through where she wanted me to go. She asked for CSV files ( Excel files) of May and June’s payments taken because she said she was following up on the overcharging of fees. It all made sense and she explained she was a third-party vendor that was contracted out to help process this information. I could hear chatter in the background as I apologized for how slow my computer was. She said once I got the files I could email them to an address. She explained that the email was simple because it reduced confusion and instances of people taking down the wrong address and sending the information to the wrong people.
At this point, some little voice started telling me to beware. Probably due to my haste I missed all the warning bells up to then. I decided to take it slow and let her know that I would email her the files in 15 minutes or so. In the meantime, I asked that she email me a request so I could have it for my records. She said that once the files were sent she could generate an email to let me know the files had been received and that was how the system was set up. I definitely decided that it was time to make sure so as we spoke I sent a request to the credit card processing company to ask if the request was legitimate. Beth was extremely nice and talkative but something just did not add up. I wanted to make sure while not offending her in case this was a legitimate call.
I got off the phone and waited for a response from the company. About 45 minutes passed and the phone rang. It was Beth calling to say she never received the email. Now I thought if this was a scam why would she call back? I let her know I was having computer difficulties while I waited for the response. She sat and talked to me saying that her company had installed a new system and it was full of bugs that caused internet outages and the fax machine to lose faxes. She talked about her day and mundane occurrences while I pretended my computer was frozen. However, I figured since I had sent the email I may as well wait for a response. I let her know that I had to restart and that once I got it all taken care of I would forward the info. She thanked me and told me to have a good day.
Eventually, I received the email to say that in fact, it was a scam and that the company we use does not use third-party vendors. Nothing Beth from merchant Services said was true. The credit card company assumed that it was a phishing scam to see what kind of info they could get. Later I looked and saw that the CSV file really had no information in it but to a skilled person, there could be something they could use there to abscond with an identity or funds.
I relate to this story because as vigilant as we are there are still skilled scammers out there that can get us to send them info. It is always better to check and make sure rather than blindly accepting what a voice on the end of a phone line tells you. Know who you are speaking with and make sure that if something does not sound right, check it out before you move forward. If it is a legitimate request the person will understand your hesitance. If they are a scammer then it doesn’t matter what they think. Protect yourself by asking questions and making sure that you get the right answers. A scam works best when we are not paying attention.