I received a phone call recently offering me a $100 discount certificate good at a number of big-name chain stores just to answer a few simple questions.

First, the heavily accented East Indian caller asked for my name and address to send the gift certificate. Then he asked if I rented or owned my house, then a few more questions to qualify for an extra $100 bonus certificate.

After a sales pitch listing the stores involved and how I could us the gift certificates, he asked for $4.85 for shipping the now-$200 certificates. I said that if it was not a free gift with no upfront money, it was a scam.

I’d been listening to see what the catch was. Here it was. The only way I could give him the shipping and handling money over the phone would be to give him a credit card number. That is something no one should ever do over the phone unless they initiated the call to buy something and know whom they were talking to. With that information, the gentleman on the phone, or his employers, could max out whatever card number I gave him.

Never give out financial information over the phone, unless you placed the call to a known store or agency. If you do, your children will inherit a lot less of your estate, if there is any left at all.

Harvey Versteeg

Augusta