Tips For Avoiding Fraud and Scams
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Tips to avoid falling victim of fraud
Scam artists work hard to perfect their contact with you to appear as legitimate as possible. Here are some tips to help you be aware of common scam practices.
Utilize your caller I.D. If a phone number is unfamiliar or caller is unidentified, do not answer. Let the caller leave a message and check it after they hang up. Often scammers will use local numbers to look more believable. Once you have established the call is a scam you can block the number from your cell phone.
Never give personal I.D. over the phone or in an email to someone you do not know; even if it sounds “official” (see Social Security and IRS scams below.) The Government, banks and credit card companies will never call you to verify your Social Security or account numbers. If you have initiated a call to your bank, credit card company or government office, they may ask you to verify some information just to make sure you are authentic.
Do not give passwords or remote access to callers or e-mailers. Scammers will sometimes say that they are from a familiar company like Microsoft and have detected a virus on your computer and will help you fix it. They will ask you to download an icon and then have control of your computer. This is embedded malware that gives them access to your devices.
Never pay for anything with gift cards. This is a popular method of payment for scammers that becomes untraceable and is as usable as cash.
Never click on a hyperlink from an unfamiliar e-mail. If you receive a message from the bank, call them first to verify the legitimacy of the message.
Be wary of foreign contacts. Many scammers call from overseas and use U.S. phone numbers. Those e-mails from foreign countries offering money, often millions, are phony.
Look after your senior family members. Unfortunately, these citizens are specifically targeted. Sometimes a change in their behavior regarding finances are a clue.
Common Scams via phone, e-mail or mail
- Social Security Scam – Caller will claim to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and tell you that there is a problem with your social security number and possibly threaten that you will lose your number.
Fact: No one from the SSA will ever call you, especially to threaten that you will lose your S.S.#.
- Internal Revenue System Scam – Caller will claim to be with the IRS and ask you for personal information to “verify” who you are and tell you that there is a problem with your taxes. They may threaten that you face fines or penalties if you do not cooperate.
Fact: No one from the IRS will ever call you. Do not give the caller any personal information.
- Microsoft/Apple Scam – Caller/e-mailer will claim to be from a computer company that detected fraudulent activity on your account. They may also tell you that you have a virus, and they want to help you fix it. They will ask for passwords and even remote control of your device.
Fact: They will embed software that will give them access to your device and retrieve personal information. Do not give them passwords or access to your devices.
- Traveling Relative Scam – Caller or e-mailer will claim to be a relative that has had an accident or been arrested while traveling and needs financial assistance. They will usually tell you not to tell anyone, especially their parents. This is a popular method used to scam grandparents.
Fact: Someone has gotten a hold of this person’s contacts and is making fraudulent calls/e-mails. The technology for this scam has reached the point where the caller can even sound like your loved one. Don’t comply with the caller’s instructions and contact the family member. Do not send money!
- Foreign Millionaire Scam– Caller/e-mailer will claim to have millions of dollars that they need to find a benefactor for due to illness or imprisonment. They will ask you to contact them and relay your bank information so that they can “bless” you with money.
Fact: Foreign scammers may invoke pity and even use Christian verbiage to legitimize their honesty.
- “Can you here me?” Scam – Caller, sometimes automated, will ask if you can hear them. They may repeat the question to invoke a “yes” from you.
Fact: They want you to say “yes” to record your voice. Learn to say, “I can hear you” instead.
- Lottery Scam – Letter or call will claim that you have won some type of lottery. You will be asked to send money and personal information to claim the prize.
Fact: Lotteries do not operate this way. You must play to win, and legit lotteries will provide instructions for claiming prizes. They will never ask you to give money to get money. If you did not play, you did not win.
- Overpayment Scam – Person will send you too much money or ask you to pay something for them and request the return of any excess. For example, if you sold a piano and they are having a moving company pick it up, they send you money to pay the moving company.
Fact: They most likely have sent you a bad check and now you have given them something of value and paid to have it delivered. If you do accept the check as payment, make sure that the bank clears it before shipping anything.
- Ship First Scam – Caller/e-mailer will ask you to ship an item that you are selling before they send the money.
Fact: Never ship anything without a legitimate financial transaction.
- Car Warranty Scam – Caller will tell you that you car warranty has or is close to expiring and they want to prevent a lapse in your coverage.
Fact: Caller is trying to get personal information from you such as bank account numbers or credit/debit card numbers and pins.
What to do if I have been scammed
Thousands of victims get scammed every year and costs millions of dollars in lost money and valuables. If you have been scammed do not feel embarrassed or shamed. Follow these steps:
Contact your credit card company and/or financial institution to let them know of the fraud. They have dealt with this before and will do what they can to fix the problem. Do this as soon as you know, or even suspect, that you may be a victim of scammers.
Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov and report the fraud by completing an affidavit.
Check your credit report. You can access free credit reports at annualcreditreport.com.
Your rights to your free annual credit reports
Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. If you choose to receive a report from one of the companies every four months, you can stagger it so you receive a free report three times per year.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sites contain extensive information about credit reports, your rights, and the laws that guarantee these rights. You can learn more about your free reports at the Federal Trade Commission’s website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website
Report Social Security scams to oig.ssa.gov
Call your local police if you feel victim to the scam. If you just received a scam call, but followed the above advice and did not compromise your information, a police report is not necessary. If you are a resident in Bedminster Township, PA, you can call 215-795-2972 and speak with the officer on duty.