3. I'll Call You. If the callers insist they have to speak with you — for example, they are from your bank and need to give you important information — tell them you will call them directly. At this point, fraudsters will often offer a phone number for you to call as proof they are who they say they are. Don't believe them. Instead of accepting the phone number they offer, you're much safer looking up the number independently — in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet. If the caller says he's with a company that you're already doing business with — such as a utility or phone company — you can also call the number on the monthly billing statement.
4. Stay Alert. Even if you initiate the call, you might not be safe. Before you give any personal or financial information over the phone, check out the company's credentials — ask the person to mail you information, check with the Better Business Bureau, take a look at the company's website and ask for references.
5. Take Your Time. Scammers often try to create a false deadline. If you feel pressured to make a decision, hang up. You've spent a lifetime earning your money. You deserve a little time to choose how to spend it.
6. Be Part of the Solution. You can help prevent others from falling victim to scammers. The early warning system for the FTC is every one of us. If you've received a call, mailing or email you think might be from a scammer, report the incident to the FTC by calling its consumer hot line at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). The FTC also has a good video on the topic.
Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For.