As if they weren't already under enough stress, phone scams specifically target military families, as the lowest elements of our society prey on the one percent of the population making tremendous sacrifices to protect the rest of us.
Phone scams may take the form of phishing scams, identity theft scams, survey scams and others.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself against a phone scam, identity theft scam, phishing scam or survey scam is simply to refuse to answer questions asking for personal information, especially over the phone, and especially when you did not initiate the call.
You have no way of knowing to whom you're actually speaking when you answer your phone at home. Caller ID information can be manipulated to show a number other than the one that is actually calling you (called spoofing), and is not always reliable.
Military families can protect themselves against such scams by refusing to disclose personal information over the phone.
Just politely say, "I'm sorry, but we don't answer questions over the phone," and hang up. You don't need to wait for the caller to respond, to "give you permission" to hang up, either.
It's your phone, you're paying for it, and they don't have your permission to be tying up the line, so hang up. You shouldn't be concerned about being rude to someone who's trying to steal your personal information, and probably your money.
As a general rule, if the caller asks for personal information, such as a social security number, credit card number, bank account information, date of birth, mother's maiden name, or other common identifiers used in financial transactions, tell them you don't give out such information over the phone.
And of course, for OPSEC as well as your own personal security, don't give out any information about deployments, troop movements, ship movements, deployment length etc.
Do NOT tell anyone you have a deployed family member and you're alone for months! This is just common sense for personal safety, but I'm constantly surprised at how many milspouses broadcast on Facebook or elsewhere that their husbands are deployed for x more months. Unfortunately, it's not safe for you to do that.
Ask for a number to call them back. Then go online and do a Google search on that phone number. Many times, you'll find a list of complaints about phishing scams and calls from that number. If not, at least look up the area code to see where the call is coming from.
Then, after letting some time pass (so they're not sitting there waiting for your call), call back and listen very carefully to what is said when the phone is answered. Then say, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. What is the name of the company?"
When you receive such a call, come back here and enter the information in the comments form below, so other military families will be forewarned if they should receive a similar call.
One of the latest phishing phone scams target military families is a caller who claims to be with the Department of Defense, conducting a survey for TriCare, the military's contracted healthcare provider.
In September 2010, an active duty member of the Air Force's 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron (1SOSFS) in Florida was contacted by phone about a TriCare survey. The airman was asked for personal information including Social Security number, home address, and date of birth. Additionally, the caller asked about deployment status and length of deployments.
The sharp airman, smelling a rat, asked why information that TriCare already had on file was being requested, and the caller immediately hung up. The airman called the number back, but no one answered. The airman saved the phone number, 312-258-4260, and turned it over to Investigations.
When Investigations called the number, it was answered by an answering machine with a message that indicated the company is conducting a TriCare survey. We got the same message when we called.
A Google search for that number brings up a whocallsme.com report indicating the number is registered to Ameritech Illinois, 225 West Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois, an AT&T company providing telecom services. Several people have reported being called from that number by someone claiming to be conducting a TriCare survey.
The Investigations office contacted both the national and local TriCare offices, who verified that they do conduct surveys. They pointed out, however, that TriCare surveys never ask for the type of personal information that was requested from this airman.
Perhaps this was an errant employee, employed to work on a legitimate survey, who just decided to make a little extra money for himself/herself on the side, by committing identity theft? Thankfully, this airman worked in Special Operations and was perhaps more attuned to security than someone else might be, especially a family member at home.
At any rate, you need to be aware that some phone scams specifically target military families, and be alert to protecting your personal information.
NEVER give out Social Security numbers, or deployment or troop or ship movement information to an unknown phone caller. (And just because they tell you who they are doesn't mean that's really who they are.)
If you didn't initiate the call, so that you know where you called, DO NOT give any information over the phone.
That one simple step could save you from being a victim of a phone scam, and losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Are you aware of a phone scam our readers should know about? Please share your personal experience with other military families so they can be prepared if they receive a similar call. Just type your comments below.
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Attempted phishing phone call from "TriCare" at 305-300-8989
I received a call with caller ID "Camelia Guerra", 305-300-8989 at 1632 EDT on 2 May 2015. The caller hesitated to speak after I answered the phone …