MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Blog by Maggie Green, WMC Action News 5 Digital Content Producer:
I can see it now, my Lifetime Original Movie will be called, "Deceived by detectives: the scam that almost cost too much." That's a pretty terrible title. I'll keep workshopping it.
I got scammed. It's the most humiliating thing that has ever happened to me, and I once farted during a test in the fourth grade. But here's how they got me- fear.
I've never been to jail. I've never had a warrant for my arrest. Working in news, you think I'd know how this thing goes, but I didn't.
When you're in trouble, when you've got 20 minutes before you have to leave work and drive on an apparently suspended license, you don't think, you act. Fight or flight. I took the third option--do whatever someone tells you because you're scared and there seems like no other way out.
Here's how it happened. I'm sitting at my desk, working at the job I've had for the past 16 months. The job where I've seen a billion stories about phone scams and have personally answered dozens of Facebook messages and calls about people who fall for these or people warning against them.
My mom texts me: "You need to call me ASAP. You failed to appear in court and now you need to post bond because your driver's license is suspended. You need to call Sergeant Jackson with the sheriff's department. Don't panic--I told them you don't live here and we didn't get the notice. We'll take care of it, I'll give you the $800."
I trust my mom with my life. My mom is always the person I turn to when I'm in trouble. So when my mom started freaking out about this, I started freaking out about this.
My mom's no slouch--she's got a PhD. from Yale University. She's the smartest person I know. But she fell for it, too. Nevermind that from the time I was 6 years old, she always told me to tell telemarketers, "We don't do business over the phone." She told me to never give out information over the phone. Who knows who's really on the other side?
And yet, here we both are, scrambling to find a debit card number to hand over to this man. I guess that means we both have to give back our Yale diplomas. We're not feeling too bright right now.
When I came back into the newsroom and told everyone what happened, people were shocked that I could have missed a court date, that the system could have messed me up like that. It wasn't until our assignment editor said, "That's not right...that sounds fishy," that it clicked for all of us. It's a scam.
My face fell. All I could think was, "What's the past tense of scam? Is it scrumped? Girl, you just got scrumped."
I immediately canceled my card and told the bank to keep an eye on my account. I'm filing a police report. Janice Broach did a story about me (one step closer to that Lifetime movie).
So...here's my advice, and my point:
- You're never too smart or too savvy to get scammed. When someone threatens you, or says you owe them something, don't panic. Think. It's over the phone-- there's no immediate flight or fight threat. Take a breath and think critically.
- Live by that mantra I should have remembered from so long ago: don't do business over the phone. Everything is online nowadays- just ask for a website where you can enter your info or a mailer at the very least. If they refuse, and unless it's someone you know, hang up.
- If you do get a call like this, call the police and file a report. Remember, the non-emergency number is 901-545-COPS. Give them as many details as possible.
- Remember that law enforcement or other government bodies will not call you over the phone and demand money. They'll send you something in the mail or just show up at your house. They're not going to call you. They don't have time for that.
- If you realize the scam too late, like me, immediately cancel your credit and/or debit card. Ask your bank to watch for fraudulent activity. I was lucky that I realized it so soon and nothing was taken out of my account, but it could've been a lot worse.
I can keep this under control now. But I can't shake that feeling of the dumbest thing I've ever done--that feeling of standing in my underwear and handing my bank card to anyone who wants it.
So learn from my idiocy, from my mistake and from my shame: don't get scrumped. You're smarter than that.