Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

You’ve just won… January 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , ,

“CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED to receive a free cruise to the Bahamas!”

Not the Bahamas, but a beach none-the-less. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

Not the Bahamas, but a beach none-the-less. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

For a minute, I want to believe it, that I’ve won a trip that will take me far from the bitter cold and snow of Minnesota to the sunshine and warmth of the Bahamas. Not that I would go anyway, given my issues with flying.

But still, who doesn’t like to win something? My husband actually won a trip to the Bahamas in 2003. A legitimate trip from a local radio station.

This most recent phone call, though, alerting me to the free cruise, raised an immediate red flag. For one, an automated voice would not relay such good news. Secondly, I did not register nor qualify for a cruise give-away.

So I hung up.

But would everyone?

I think not.

You’ve all gotten those calls, I’m sure, scaring you in to thinking you need a product or warning you about something related to your credit card. Or what about those high pressure telemarketers tugging at your compassionate side, asking you to donate to some worthy cause?

I hang up.

But would everyone?

I think not.

In this crazy mixed up world, it is sometimes difficult to separate truth from untruth, honesty from dishonesty, fact from fiction.

I want to see the best in everyone, I truly do. I want to believe that the person on the other end of the line really is asking me to donate to an authentic charity. Common sense tells me otherwise, that I am likely to be taken by a scam if I get sucked in.

I want to believe that all of the comments to this blog are simply readers who wish to share their thoughts. My spam filter, with 200,460 blocked comments, tells me otherwise.

Then there are the convincing emails, which appear from legitimate sources, but aren’t. It’s tempting to click on the link, but I don’t.

To filter through all of this, I trust my gut, my intuition that something is not quite right. When red flags pop up, I see them.

That line from Alice in Wonderland comes to mind: Welcome to Wonderland, where everything is not as it seems.

So…if you get a call about a free cruise to the Bahamas, be forewarned…

DEAR READERS, have you ever believed something to be legitimate/true and it turns out it wasn’t? What warning signs alert you that something isn’t quite right?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


46 Responses to “You’ve just won…”

  1. Great points – I’d been receiving letters telling me I had won a free round-trip ticket to anywhere in the U.S. The logo looked legit – not quite like an American Airlines. I wanted to believe it. I felt weird throwing the letters in the trash. An ultimate Google search proved what my family had been telling me all along…it was totally bogus!

    • I know, some of those letters and some of those people can seem so incredibly convincing. So glad you, and your family, figured this out before you accepted that “free” ticket. Thanks also for mentioning Google, a useful tool, although one must be cautious about the info found there, too.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    “Gut instinct” is a powerful guide…..but only if we give heed! It’s when we start to be guided by our heart/”if only”/”maybe” that we follow a yellow brick road that will take us to……..Oz????? Yes, all is not as it appears. We want to believe in “innate goodness” but know that this side of heaven, and with only One exception, such does not/has not existed this side of heaven. Cynic or realist? Jaded or …….. Enough, the winds are howling outside and the advisory for the next weather occurrence has been posted. This is me, hunkering down—in my sewing room. Sigh……………….

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    In this day and age it is so easy to fall prey to scams and schemes and I especially worry about the older people getting sucked into something unscrupulous. My mom is pretty savvy still and would give someone a run for their money if they tried to bamboozle her, I think. I use my gut feeling most of the time and it is usually right on. Except when it comes to people—-I am very trusting which is not always a good thing. ;-(

    • I worry about my mom, too, sometimes, as she has such a giving heart. But she’s also one smart lady, like your mom.

      As for trusting people, I think that’s part of your caring and compassionate nature, that you want to believe the best. And, yes, sometimes that is not a good thing. But I bet you’re basically pretty good at “reading” people, knowing whom you can trust and who not. Am I right?

  4. Scammers are seemingly everywhere scheming away. Never before has there been so many ways to do these dastardly deeds. Technology, unfortunately, enables a great deal of this. This will only continue to expand. It is extremely important to safeguard you digital identity. Every other day you hear about a security breach at some major retailer or government agency. If these scoundrels only used their talent for good, just think what might be possible.

  5. cheryl schrader Says:

    I suspect that the call you received was from a time share operation. In those you do get your “free” cruise or vacation, but you have to listen to a four or so hour presentation telling you that you need to buy this timeshare and how it will enrich your life. They will even go so far as to tell you “you can try it out for two years or so, then cancel. That is where the real scam comes in, because if you get that far and decide you can get along without this timeshare opportunity, you will have a heck of a time. It took us contacting the attorney general”s office to get ours released. But if you are willing to spend the time the presentation, it is a pretty good deal. Just be strong enough to walk away, because they are pretty “slimy” in some of their sales pitches. At least this has been our experience. Actually we went to Maui and our son went on their honeymoon that way.

    • Now this IS interesting, to hear that the call I got may have come from a time share operation. I have no interest in time shares, especially so after your hearing of your experience that “it took us contacting the attorney general’s office to get ours released.” No, thank you. I would not want to come remotely close to dealing with something like this. I’m glad this ended well for you, but not without a great deal of time and stress, I’m sure.

      Thank you for sharing your experience so that we can all learn.

  6. DeLores Johnson Says:

    Years ago I got a letter telling me I had won a new car. Just for fun I called the 800 # to see what it was all about. The guy that answered said, “Oh, Yes I had won a new car but I had to buy XXX no. of vitamins every month (there was no way a normal person could use the no of pills he said I had to buy). I knew it was
    a scam and I told him so. He got real angry and said, “Just remember lady, you called me I didn’t call you” and he hung up. So much for my new car I won!!


  7. Welcome to my 8 to 5 world – I deal with this from callers 40 hours a week and 99.9% is a scam, especially if the scammer wants money (untraceable of course) up front for something you supposedly won! If it seems to good to be true – STAY AWAY from it!!! Happy Weekend:)

    • Oh, wow. How stressful this must be, to listen to the stories and then try to undo the damage that’s been done.

      Let’s all repeat this now: “If it seems too good to be true–STAY AWAY from it!!!”

    • I will share with you and your readers the Top 3!

      Vacation or Sweepstakes Scams
      Grandparent Scam
      Law Enforcement and Fire soliciting monies – BIG SCAM – these agencies DO NOT call and ask for monies!!!

      Remember to do your research online and State Attorney General websites are a wealth of information on the scams and frauds going on.

      NEVER give monies or your identity up front!!!

      • Thank you for that list. I’ve gotten the firefighter calls many times.

        I phoned local law enforcement and the county attorney’s office last year about ongoing phone calls to buy a “life alert” type system. I knew from the scare tactic approach that started with “If you are a senior citizen…” that this was a scam. I was tired of the phone calls, which were constant.

        Law enforcement referred me to the county attorney. The county attorney’s office never returned my phone call, which disappointed me. I called, because on other occasions, I’d seen articles in the local newspaper alerting area residents to scams. A local man was taken by the “phone call from a grandchild asking for money” scam.

        What should we as consumers do when we keep getting these phone calls, like I did? Who do we call to report this? Or do we just let it go?

      • Contact the State Attorney General’s Office or just check out their website for a general complaint form or e-mail address, or mailing address to send a letter of complaint. There may be a law against those calls with being on the Do Not Call List too – the AG’s Office would be able to explain the law to you.

        I forgot one more important scam – Subscription scams to magazines.

      • Thanks for that follow-up info. That’s helpful. Our number is on the do not call list, has been for years. But that does not stop the calls.

        What’s the scam with the magazine subscriptions? That’s one I have not heard.

      • The Subscription Scam. Some of the subscription mailings to sign up or renew are not from the actual magazine, but from a 3rd party scammer that takes your money. These scammers now have your check information or CC information and maybe a mailing and/or e-mail addresses.

      • That’s scary. How do you decipher what’s authentic and what’s not?

      • I pretty much know when my subscription is up for renewal for one. Second you can call the magazine and see what their mailing address for payment is or get an update on your account if you are paid up or not. If you see a charge on your account, contact your bank if it is fraudulent.

      • I recently checked with a magazine on a subscription because I knew I had renewed it a few months ago. Thus I did not pop a check in the mail.

        I am so glad you told us about this because I really did not know of this magazine subscription scam.

      • Great Topic Today – Happy to Share:)

      • I am grateful for all of your tips.

        Interestingly enough, last evening I read a major spread in the January/February issue of AARP Bulletin on scammers/con artists. A sidebar article was titled “The Psychology of a Con Job.” Due to copyright, I cannot reprint the exact content here. But, basically, the story states that these scammers/con artists prey on our vulnerabilities and desires whether in the area of health, love or whatever. They attempt to play on our emotions, ie. an appeal to a grandparent to help a grandchild, our need for romantic love, etc., to the point where we are thinking with our hearts and not with our intellect/minds.

        In the main article, the six most common scam areas were listed: romance, charity, grandparents, home repair, health care and investment.

        You can read that article here: http://pubs.aarp.org/aarpbulletin/20140102_VA?sub_id=jzOAIKLmjPdI&lm=1389555418000#pg1

        I would highly recommend everyone read it.

  8. Jackie Says:

    I just really want to know….did you go to the bahama’s in 2003? I’m very cautious about “those calls” and usually hang up, like you. I’m a firm believer that if it’s too good to be true…it probably isn’t. The sun is shining to day Audrey….does that help?, even a little 🙂

    • Yes, sunshine can work wonders to lift the mood. Definitely better than grey skies, even if it means the temp is likely to be colder.

      No, I didn’t go to the Bahamas in 2003. I had a lot of pressure to do so from extended family members and not a lot of understanding. But I had to do what I could handle and flying was not something I could handle. My dad was also in the hospital dying of cancer and, in fact, died two days after my husband and eldest daughter returned home from the Bahamas. I don’t think I could have enjoyed myself even if I had gone. It was a very difficult time for me.

      • Jackie Says:

        I didnt know you had such a fear of flying, but beside that I see why It would have been even harder because of your dad’s illness. I wouldnt of gone either!

      • I don’t make a point of telling people about this because typically they do not understand and that causes tension and stress. Extended family and many friends know, but still occasionally won’t let it go. I recently burst into tears at a family gathering when someone pushed the flying issue. Now I think they “get it” and I doubt I will ever get flack again about not wanting to fly.

  9. I have learned to really trust my gut and say “no thank you” no matter what someone on the phone tells me I’ve won. I hate that particular business model of using a phone call and dangling a carrot that gets someone to listen to a sales pitch. And don’t even get me started on the professional fundraisers who solicit for fire fighters (how can we not support fire fighters?) and police officers (again, who in the world would be against these people who lay down their lives for us?), etc. etc. I choose where my donations go by being engaged in my community, not by listening to someone I’ve never met on the other end of a phone call. And getting that kind of phone call when all I want to do is sit down to a meal with my family at the end of the day makes me furious; that’s the time I’m most like to be rude!
    By the way, my mom was also not someone who embraced flying.

    • Excellent advice, Kathleen.

      If I listen long enough to a phone pitch, I state that I choose to give locally to charities. And I do. I want to know to whom I am donating.

      Once upon a time I was nice to these people, too, listened and then said, “No, thank you.” Not anymore. I just hang up.

      That interrupting a meal thing drives me crazy, too. If my husband answers the phone, it’s not good. He will listen while I motion for him to “just hang up so we can eat.” I think he finally got the message.

  10. Marilyn Says:

    When I receive a call for whatever scam, charity appeal, etc I read a statement in my best ‘response voice’ to let them know: “We have made a firm policy to never give or invest in any appeal or plan that is not self-initiated. That means we cannot support your appeal under any circumstances because you called us and initiated this approach. Forgive me for taking up your time.” And then I immediately hang up and do not allow the conversation ball to continue.

  11. debbie Says:

    Got a call like that saying I won a free trip to Bahamas and that there was only $29.00 booking fee. We get to stay for 3 days and 4 nights in a five star hotel. All I needed to do was pay the booking fee. Lol! I got the scammer’s phone number and reported it to Callercenter.com to raise a warning. While it may appear obvious to me, there could be others who are not aware yet.

  12. ryanware Says:

    I got a couple of the you won a trip called but for a different reason. Apparently the person that had my cell phone number prior to mine had been in a bit of trouble. The calls I got said I could claim my prize by coming to a hotel in Bloomington, MN. I knew from watching the news that that was a classic felon sweep. They trick people wanted by the law to come to the hotel, usually a ballroom and after you all take you seat, the exits are all suddenly manned by officers of the law to tell you what you won.

    • Holy, cow! How did you uncover the info about the previous cell phone number holder?

      • ryanware Says:

        I got lots of calls asking for him by first name. Even his father was trying to track him down. The other part was that for a time the caller ID when I’d call someone was not my name but rather the former number holder. It took a day for my work to clear that up. It took was a matter of going through a couple layers of the cell carrier to figure out where the old information still was. Once I had his full name I did some searching on the internet and found some more information about the person who had my number previously. Mostly skipping out on paying for a car seized in a DUI and other related stuff. I got calls for a couple years on and off. Debt collectors and skip tracer’s I imagine, but also from the messages could tell them some of them were on more personal terms with him.

      • I think I would have ditched the phone and gotten a new number. What a hassle and probably stressful for you at times, too.

  13. I was wakened by the phone yesterday – so it was early – and the caller said they were from the Windows Support Service (as in Windows for the computer) – they might have been legit, I don’t know, but I said, “How do I know you’re from there?” and he tried to defend himself but I just hung up. Didn’t need that!

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