I picked up my cell phone after a ring or two, even though I did not recognize the number.
“Is this Karen?” the young woman’s voice said. I was about to answer when she spoke smoothly and quickly, “this call may be recorded for quality assurance.”
“Who is this?” I asked – immediately suspicious.
“I have some important information to discuss with you but I need you to verify your date of birth.” Smelling a scam, I hung up.
A day later, and the same number calls again. Then again. Finally, I answer, and it is the same young woman. “Miss, there is no way I am going to give a stranger any personal information. Unless you can tell me what this is all about, stop calling.”
“This is important, but I can’t talk with you about it until I verify that you are the Karen O’Connor, we are trying to find. Can you tell me your date of birth?”
“No!” I say, incredulously. “How about the last four of your social security number,” she responds.
“Put me in touch with your supervisor,” I insist. Much to my surprise, she agrees. After a moment on hold, I hear a male voice come onto the phone.
“This is Steve, can I help you?”
“Yes, you can tell me who you are, what company you work for, and why you are calling me and asking for personal information?”
Steve explained that his firm was a collection agency, and there was a Karen O’Connor out there that owed a significant amount in school loans. I was not that person. Steve also tried to get me to verify personal information, and I just as adamantly refused.
“Steve,” I objected, “I am simply not going to tell a stranger anything personal – for heaven’s sake, you are doing exactly what identity thieves do!”
Believe it or not, Steve agreed to take my number off the list of places to call looking for my indebted twin. He had a job to do, and while I do not think this was a scam, even an otherwise legitimate company may not be as careful with your information as you would expect. In our office, all client personal information is stored securely with very limited access. For all I know, this collection agency might leave my information laying around on their desk on sticky notes.
Many homeowner’s insurance carriers offer identity theft insurance. Check your policy, or ask your insurance agent. Bottom line – never share information of a personal nature with a stranger. Ever.