A new phone scam is targeting homes in the 905 and 289 area codes. Unlike the more common (and completely transparent to all but the simplest of people) “You have won a 100 WalMart gift card” and “I’m calling from the support division of Microsoft” ruses, this one actually displays some cunning and guile. Be warned – it may seem innocent but it is every bit as dangerous and spiteful as any of the straight-up credit card scams.
The calls originate from a number that shows at 777-777-7777 on your caller ID. This should be your first warning, as that number signifies a VIOIP call originating from outside of North America. Unless you have relatives overseas that commonly call via an internet phone, you the easiest thing to do is to just ignore the call. This is a number that should be assumed to be masking the caller’s true location and intentions.
If you do answer the call, the person on the other end will tell you that they are calling from a research firm and they would like to ask you questions for a current survey. The “survey” itself is generic, with seemingly random questions about recycling, air quality, how you feel about your neighbourhood, and the like. I have answered this call three times now, and all three times the questions were about these same topics, but in different orders and with slightly different phrasing. One thing all three calls did have in common were questions that tried to gain the following information in separate and out-of-order responses:
My first name
My last name
If I own or rent my home
How long I have lived at my current address
The name of my employer
Combine those items with the phone number (which they obviously already have) and the address (which can be looked up from the phone number) and you have everything you need to apply for a basic credit card or cobble together a quick-and-dirty identity theft. It’s clever, it’s well thought out, and it could be absolutely devastating.
So be warned. Repairing the damage of identity theft can take years and cost you more money than you can possibly imagine. If you do answer this call (either for curiosity’s sake our just out of boredom), do not give any of your true personal information over the course of the questioning. All they got out of me was the “fact” that Brian Mulroney has rented my house for 22 years and he works at Airbus Industries Canada. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be able to do much with that.