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'What if?'

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Last month, residents in town were warned, yet again, about being aware of fraudulent or scam phone calls.

This is a refrain that repeats frequently, because we have a larger aging population, and scammers seem to thrive by preying on those who aren't as technology proficient as others, and who then might not be as aware of what's wrong.

We read these stories, feel indignant that our neighbours are preyed upon, and then say to ourselves,

“Well, that would never happen to me.”

Except . . . wouldn't it?

I had a phone call at work last week. I have my ringer on my cellphone set to a noticeable volume because my job is talking to people, often over the phone.

I never heard a ring, but my phone warned me I had missed a call.

Strange there was no ring, but I saw I had a new voicemail, so I sat and listened.

The call set alarm bells ringing. It was delivered by a robotic woman's voice, and claimed to be from “the legal department of Service Canada.”

In the end, it warned me to not ignore the legal action that was about to be taken against my social insurance number, for reasons unexplained, and avoid a situation where the magistrate would come for me.

I was 99 percent sure that I have done nothing that would warrant legal action. But that one percent still lingered.

“What if...?”

In the end, that's where the scammers work. They want you to wonder and worry and panic, and though I knew enough to Google the number and a list of common scams from the Canadian government website, I still had that fleeting second of doubt.

“What if?”

Stay vigilant when speaking on the phone with anyone you don't know, particularly if they call you.

Don't be afraid to ask for a name and number, and then call a certified phone number of the organization they claim to represent.

If a relative is suddenly in a spot of financial trouble in a foreign country, call other family members to make sure that story pans out.

Don't give away any important numbers over the phone unless you are 100 percent sure the person you're speaking with is legitimate.

After all, it only takes one good “what if” to get the scam started.

—Ken Kellar

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