Marcus, the digital savings bank from Goldman Sachs teamed up with Debrett’s, the expert coaches on modern manners and etiquette, to produce a guide to avoid being scammed while remaining polite and courteous.
Their research revealed that a quarter of us think we’re more susceptible to fraud because of our polite and trusting nature and a quarter of us admitted we struggle to hang up a cold call because we don’t want to be rude. You can read the report here or our short summary of its advice below.
- Screen your calls. You don’t have to answer the phone. It is not rude and no-one will know what you were busy with at the time. Scammers don’t like leaving voicemail messages whereas Auntie Gill is probably okay with it. A couple of calls from the same unknown number (and no message) tells you that you should block them. Some clever scammers will make their number look like a real one, so screening calls is not enough to cover everything, but it’s a good start.
- Block the call early by asking who you’re talking to. Scammers use conversation to gain trust, so stop yourself being nice to people you don’t know. If they ask “How are you?”, say “Fine, thank you”. Don’t ask how they are. Instead ask who they are, where they are calling from and what this is about. Get to the point quickly. (If they start asking for personal information and you don’t get a good feeling, then read on…)
- Flip the conversation by asking further questions. You can say “I’m sorry but I have to be careful because there are so many scammers around. I’d like to know more about why you are calling and why you need this information for me now. I’ll make some notes and can call you back”. You can take their contact details (although they may not be keen to give them) and see if they match with the official details on a company website. Any mismatch is a red flag to stop your contact with them.
- Don’t be fooled by politeness. Scammers are good at NOT sounding like a criminal. They mostly sound polite, informed and knowledgeable. You need to stop thinking that being polite makes someone trustworthy, because your trust is what they need to get you to hand over information (or money).
- Actually check their credentials. Take your own time to double check their contact details by visiting the company website from your own search. Don’t follow links you are sent by them as these can be phishing or spoof links designed to capture your details on a fake webpage. Scammers are tricky and try and get you to reveal all on the first call. They don’t like calling back or have you call back – so try and test their patience by ending the first call to take time to think things over.
- Say you’re going to ring them back on their organisation’s official number. Scammers really don’t like the sound of this one. Don’t use the number or email address they give you but try and find them (if you still believe it might be genuine) through official channels. If you can get them then it might well be genuine. If you can’t then nothing is lost – and no-one got hurt.
- Keep your lips sealed – don’t give out your personal or financial information. You are under no obligation to reveal any information over the phone to someone who called you – rather than you calling them. Don’t give them anything to work with (like the name of your bank or mobile provider).
- Don’t let them in. Don’t answer revealing questions. Don’t click on email links from unknown senders. Don’t download software from unknown senders. Don’t ever give anyone your password who is not in your family (and even then do you really need to!)
- Don’t panic. Stop and take five minutes to think about what they’re asking you to do. Scammers will always try and add time pressure. Don’t accept that. Say you never make any decisions like this in a hurry and need time to ask your trusted advisers. Practice using that last line and use it all the time.
- Solve your own problems – tell them you’ll deal with it yourself. If someone is offering to help fix a problem say “Thanks for pointing that out but I will sort it out myself when I have time to do it”. You don’t need their help.
- Spread the word by sharing your experience with friends and family. If you feel something odd just happened then do a quick internet search. It’s often reassuring to find that this is a common issue with other people – and you did the right thing to avoid it. Leave comments for other IPS members at the bottom of this article and share your experience with our Facebook Community. A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Make your excuses – was that the doorbell you just heard? You need a line you are able to fall back on if the caller is talking too much, too long or too fast. Children in the bath or somebody at the door are everyday reasons for ending a call – and getting yourself out of an uncomfortable situation.
- End it – feel empowered to put down the phone when you think someone’s scamming you. You don’t owe them politeness. Another line you can practice using is: ‘I’m sorry. I’ve listened to what you have to say, but I don’t want to take this any further. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.’ Then put the phone down immediately.