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September 09, 2009

He Called Me Sweetie

He Called Me Sweetie

By Elaine Viets

Two weeks ago, a man scammed me. Almost.       $

I caught the fast-talking sleaze when he made a fatal mistake. He called me sweetie.

Here’s what happened:   

Like most Americans, I’m trying to get my credit-card interest rates lowered. So far, I’ve failed. (Insert "I Can’t Believe We Bailed Out Those Bastards" speech here.)

I got a recorded call from a company that sounded like FCS International, offering to reduce my credit card interest if I pressed One. I did, and spoke to a man who was probably in Mumbai. He promised a representative would return my call shortly.Phone12

Next, a fast-talking man said he could reduce the interest from 8% to 6% on my Visa card. There was a $600 fee, but I’d save more than $2000 a year.

Wow! Mr. Fast Talker asked from my Visa card number and security question. He said he’d tape record our conversation with Visa for my protection. I said yes. Then he got Visa on the phone and said he was my financial advisor. The operator told him how much I owed. Mr. Fast Talker said I’d hear shortly from someone telling me how much my interest rates would be cut.

While I waited for the next call, I wondered why FCS, or whatever it was, called me. Did I contact that company? Why did they have to tell me how much my interest would be reduced? Didn’t they say 6%?

The phone rang. This time, a man said he was David Berkeley from FCS. If his name was really David Berkeley, I’m Warren Buffet. David was eager to help. He mentioned the $600 charge, but now alarm bells were ringing.                                                                    Visa

"Why did you contact me?" I asked.                                            

"Because you’re in good standing with your bank. You always make your payments on time."

That was true.

David had another of my credit card companies on the line. He wanted to record that conversation, too. He asked for my security code. I gave it to him. "Thanks, sweetie," he said.

Sweetie?

Wait a minute. Men don’t call me sweetie. They’ve called me sweetheart. One dipwad called me sweet cheeks and barely survived. But they did call my late mother-in-law sweetie. Even at 92, she was a financial wizard.

Young fools called her sweetie, thinking she was slightly senile. My mother-in-law would smile like the sweet old lady she wasn’t, then hand the twits their gonads in a grocery bag.

David Berkeley had just called me sweetie. He thought I was senile.

"Is it okay if this man represents you, Ms. Viets?" the credit card representative asked.

"Only if his representation doesn’t cost me anything," I said.

"What!" David Berkeley screamed.

When the credit card rep hung up, David Berkeley’s good nature was gone. "Why did you say that?" he asked. His tone was accusing.

"What’s wrong?"

"You said I could represent you only if my help didn’t cost you anything. I’ve spent 20 minutes talking to you," he shouted. "You’ve wasted my valuable time."

"My time is valuable, too, David. We don’t have a deal. I will not pay that $600 charge."

"You have to. We have a legal recording."

"The recording isn’t legal. By law, I have three days to back out of any deal," I bluffed. "I I’m recording this conversation. I will report you to the Florida Attorney General’s office for fraud."

"It wasn’t me," David said. "It was the first guy who called you."

David Berkeley and I did not part on good terms. I immediately called the credit card company where I supposedly had that lower rate. I didn’t have one. I also didn’t have that $600 charge.

I canceled the credit card.

I called every credit card company and changed all my passwords. I bought a credit protection plan. Then I filed a written complaint and made a phone complaint with Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. His office said these interest reduction frauds are on the rise and advised me to file a fraud report with Equifax, the credit reporting agency. I did.

Take that. Sweetie.

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Comments

Good warning for others, Elaine.

I flat refuse to fill out any offers over the phone if I didn't initiate that call. I won't do surveys, either. I would, in your case, report the actions to the other two big credit card services -- TransAmerica and...er...someone help me out here, what's the third.

Also, and I highly recommend this, you can flag your accounts and your social security number so that no one can use your number to open new accounts. Any desire to open a new account has to come in by writing by you (where they are supposed to double check signatures). It takes about 48 hours to "unlock" your credit, but that little inconvenience is worth a lot of peace of mind that someone can't have foraged all your ID info and blithely go off and rack up cards in your name that you don' know about.

Good call, all the way around, Elaine, I mean Sweetie Pie.

Thanks for the warning!

The third is Experian.

Would I get into trouble if I grinned and said "That's Our Girl..."?

Toni's right; freezing/sealing your credit records is one of the easiest and wisest things to do these days. Embarrassing though it is, I've had my information compromised twice, once with my ATM card, the second time a credit card. Fortunately, since the records are frozen, damage was confined and easily corrected.

What's scary to me is the first go-around, there were lots and lots of questions from the bank, approaching 'We know this didn't happen, who are you trying to con, you bullshit artist?'. The second time it happened, several years later, it was "We're sorry this happened to you, sir, and we'll correct it immediately." Which is a concrete example of how pervasive this kind of nonsense has become. Banks and card companies don't even twitch anymore; it's a given....

OMG! That company keeps calling me! I just never made it to the end of the call before hanging up in impatience! It's a scam? Yeesh, the things you learn from this blog.

Off to get my credit frozen, Toni, and thanks for the good suggestions, William.
Nancy, don't pick up that phone.

Could you please give some detailed instructions on freezing your credit and social security numbers? Do you call the credit reporting agencies, or your credit card companies? Do you need to call all 3 agencies? Any idea how that will affect student loan applications?

Is there a reputable website out there that explains it?
Thanks.

Elaine, you are my hero(ine).

I've dealt with credit fraud once when someone hacked into my PayPal account, and hope I never have to go through it again (though PayPal was great in fixing everything). It's amazing how life revolves around your credit rating.

Thanks for the warning, Elaine.

Laws vary by state, Janet. Here's a place to get started:

http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html

Hey! Those douchbags keep calling me, too - and how come since I'm supposedly on the do not call register. I love how the recorded message begins with Your Credit is Fine...and then launches into how I can restore my credit. Hello?

Okay, going to freeze everything now.

Brrr.

Thanks for the Consumers Union information. And please, everyone, check your credit report and dispute ALL negatives.

Of course. Missouri does not require this by law.

Sigh.

Elaine, you're awesome. That company has been calling here for the last two years, even though we are also on the Do Not Call list (and I re-subscribe frequently, just in case. For that alone the company should be shut down, since they are supposed to be fined for calling illegally.)

My husband is the naive one (despite being a very savvy, successful business owner). If someone says they are from the credit card company he panics, and if he knew the info he'd probably give it all to them. Thank goodness he doesn't know any of it. And we have always paid off our credit cards every month, so it doesn't matter at all what our interest rate is.

Thanks, William.

How much of a pain is it to unfreeze them for a new loan?

Pam, Missouri also thought it would so very clever and convenient to use our SS# for our driver's licenses . . .

Good catch, Elaine!! Take that! I still wish the scammers would find a real use for their time and talents.

Good for you Elaine!

One could almost – but not quite – feel sorry for the damnfool who tried this on Viets.

His burns should be healed by this time next year.

Janet Lynn, it's fairly easy as long as your bank or lender knows what's going on. We, both my husband and I, were recent victims of identity theft and I can say without fear of contradiction, it is a real nightmare. And we caught it before they could do much damage. During all that, we were in the process of refinancing our house. So it's doable, and I think all the stuff that took so long was the bank doing their part to dot all their i's and cross all their t's as a result of the recent bank fiasco rather than our identity theft issue. We are locked down with all 3 credit reporting agencies for 7 years. The (somewhat) peace of mind is well worth the extra hassle should we need to apply for any credit.

Karen, you can file a complaint with the FCC. It's a $10,000 fine for the telemarkets.
Here's the information.
https://www.donotcall.gov/
Go get 'em, woman -- for all of us.

I'm telling you, this blog is a treasure. Where else could you find out all about circumcision, how to barter, and the Beatles, along with today's info, in less than a week?

Sersly, dude.

Thanks a million, Elaine. I'll let you know how it goes.

Well, shoot. You have to have a phone number to file a complaint, and apparently that company uses all sorts of them. I guess I'll have to wait until I get another one, but I'll be ready!

don't forget (star)*69, Karen, to track the number if if doesn't come up on your LED display. If they haven't blocked the number, you might get it that way.

We had three of those calls last week, but I can't tell which of the caller ID numbers they were. It usually shows up, but I would have to write it down right then, I guess.

The Do Not Call list was a boon to me, I have to say. One of the few really good ides to come out of Congress in recent years!

I'm glad that you weren't scammed! However, one minor nit to pick here :). Being from the south (Atlanta), we often call people "sweetie".

The expression might be condescening in the north, but to us it's almost always meant as a pleasantry.

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