recovery services phone scamA recent scam caller claiming a company called "Recovery Services" has an unclaimed Christmas package it wants to deliver demonstrates how creative scammers can get when trying to con you out of important personal information -- a home address, in this case.

The caller, speaking from an I.D.-masked number, starts with the pitch about a missing package. But if there's any hesitation, the pitch changes quickly into a variation on the classic lottery scam, with the same caller now claiming he has an envelope with $275,000 or $277,000 awaiting the lucky recipient, winner of his company's sweepstakes this month.

All you have to do to claim your lost Christmas package, lottery windfall or both is verify your correct name and mailing address, of course.Like many scam calls, the pitch unravels if you begin asking questions. The caller, who may have a West Indian-Caribbean accent, may claim to be from Las Vegas or New York, and insists on matching your name to a home address, wanting to know if you are at home right now.

That's not a detail you want to give over the phone, even if it's in your local phone book. Why? Reasons range from the mundane -- the caller wants verified information that can in turn be sold to marketers -- to scary: The caller may be casing your property for a potential burglary. For all you know, they might be matching publicly available census data on household incomes in your area to people who are home and answer the phone.

Consumer Ally called the New York state Consumer Protection Board for further information on the scam, checked U.S. Federal Trade Commission information, and looked at the Better Business Bureau's database. State officials were not immediately available, and none of the others had specific information about the "Recovery Services" scam, though it shares common attributes with others. Interestingly, "recovery services" is a name often associated with debt collectors, not package delivery companies like UPS and FedEx, two other favorite global brands of fraudsters.

However, we can tell you:

  • If someone you don't know calls you, simply hang up. Sorry, social science researchers and charities. Phone and Internet scams are now so prolific you're going to have to find other more secure channels, or more secure combinations of them, to do business.
  • Don't give out credit card information on the phone unless you initiate the call to a business you know. Even phone calls purporting to be from your credit card company informing you of fraudulent activity can be faked. Those callers are sophisticated and probably already have your credit card number. What they're after is the three-digit number on the back. If you get a call claiming to be from your credit card company telling you about fraudulent behavior, ignore the number they give you and call the phone number on the back of your credit card instead.
  • Sign up for the national Do Not Call registry. If you are still getting phone calls from people you don't know -- the exception being companies you already do business with, who are still permitted to call you -- then you know you are dealing with a lawbreaker. Hang up. Also check to see if your state has a similar registry. New York's is here.

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