Warning -- we've been fished!

Have you ever heard of fishing scams? That's where someone typically sends you an email or letter or, in our case, a phone call. They usually give you good news - you've won something, for instance. All they need is your personal info to "process" things. Other notable schemes are those that say they have money overseas and if you'll help them transfer the money to the US by receiving the money into your bank account, they'll give you a substantial piece of the money. I've never heard of the fishing scam that struck us today. We rec'd this phone call early this morning. Jonathan hung up on them first because he said something just didn't sound right and he was using our bad phone and could hardly hear them. When they called right back, he asked me to talk to them to make sure that he heard them right. The guy told me his name was Paul Wall and that he worked with the ACS and that he was investigating a call that our children had been neglected or abused. He said they needed to set up an appointment time to come out and investigate. I asked him his name, his supervisor's name (who I supposedly did talk to), what city they were in and what their phone number was. Something just didn't seem right -- they did NOT know my name or Jonathan's name but they did ask for "John". When I told them that wasn't my husband's name and that no one ever, ever calls him John, he said he was new to this country and sometimes shortened names on accident. I asked him what child this was supposed to be in reference to and he said he could not give me any more information because it would reveal who made the complaint. They kept saying it had to do with "your littlest one". They asked whether or not our "littlest one" was in a room by himself or if his crib was up to date (John is not in a crib). Thankfully, I had my head together through most of the phone call but I was physically shaking throughout the whole thing. After almost 15 minutes, I told him as soon as I looked up his name, number, and agency, I would call them back to handle things. When I asked what "ACS" stood for, he said "American Children" and then, after a big pause, "Safety". I asked him the phone number -- at first he gave me a 641 area code -- when I questioned that, he said he meant 614. When I asked where he was located, he gave me states (none of them Ohio) or big cities -- Manhattan, for instance. I told him I couldn't handle things right then because I had to take my kids to soccer. He proceeded to tell me how dangerous soccer was....I got angry at that point and hung up. Needless to say, no such company exists on-line and the number they gave me was unlisted (www.anywho.com has a reverse look-up function for phone numbers). Not knowing what to do exactly and needing peace of mind, I called the police. I gave them the number and it turned out to be a local Cingular cell phone. He assured me we did the right thing and that, yes, we were fished. But it was enough to scare the living daylights out of me. We may or may not file an official report. We dialed *57 on our phone which officially traces the last call made (for a $4 charge) and we can call on Monday to get that official number for the police report, if we decide to file a complaint.

Lessons learned -- first of all, in this particular situation, if you are being investigated for anything related to your children, the police officer assured me that it would come as a knock on the door, not a phone call, and that the person there will have a badge and tell you they are with your county's Child Protective Services. In general, however, if anyone calls you and it doesn't sound legitimate, do NOT give out any information. Do NOT even verify the information they may or may not give you ("Can you verify your address, please" for instance). This person asked how many kids I had and their ages -- while I'm glad I didn't give him that info, there really is nothing they can do with that info but we belive he was hoping that if I gave out that little bit of info, I'd give out more. Check your emails and mail closely -- you never know when you may fall prey to something like this, too. Be careful!!

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