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Hang up on scam phone calls

Ever get a phone call from your bank or credit card company offering to lower your rate? Or maybe it's your cable company offering to lower your bill. Perhaps it's your phone company saying they need to test your phone line. Or a company claiming there is an "urgent matter with your account."

Whatever the come-on, you're asked to "press one for customer service," dial another phone number or press a series of numbers, possibly followed by the pound sign.

Once you do, your interest rate doesn't go down, your bill doesn't get any smaller, and no tests are conducted on your phone line. But you may get a surprise charge on your phone bill.

Scam artists are using a number of new methods to access your phone line, charging calls to your account, or to get you to call pricey, long-distance numbers.

The only solution is never to call any number (or follow any other kinds of prompts) given by an unsolicited caller.

If you want to lower your interest rate, call your bank directly, from the phone number you have for them -- not one given to you by someone else. If your phone company needs to conduct a test, tell them you'll call to arrange it. Then, once again, use the number you have for your phone company and call them directly. Want to lower your cable bill? That's right, call the cable company directly.

When you get them on the phone and reference the offer you were given by the caller, don't be surprised if they have no idea what you're talking about. That's because the call didn't come from them in the first place.

Another way to cut down on some calls is to add your phone numbers to the national do-not-call registry. To do that, call (888) 382-1222 from the phone number you want to register, or visit www.donotcall.gov.

Now, any criminal who is willing to pose as a legitimate company in order to steal your money is probably not worried about violating do-not-call laws. But the fewer telemarketers you have to deal with, the better.

While you're at it, why not stop credit card and insurance companies from sending prescreened offers to you in the mail? Every credit offer that lands in your mailbox is at risk of falling into the wrong hands.

You have the option of opting out for five years by calling (888) 567-8688 or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. To opt out permanently, you'll have to visit www.optoutprescreen.com, or send a letter of request to each of the major credit and consumer reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax Inc. and Innovis Consumer Assistance. Make sure the letter includes your name, home telephone number, date of birth and (yikes!) social security number.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com or call MoneySmart at 849-4612. Follow the Diva at www.Facebook.com/DiscountDiva.