Don’t fall prey to these common scams
Beware! Imposters are everywhere! When the phone rings, do you know who is calling before you answer or who sent the mail you just opened? When at your computer or on your smart phone, do you know who sent the email in your inbox? Do you know who created that pop-up message on your screen? All of these methods and many more are being used by scammers who are not what they may seem to be.
Here are some common indicators that you are dealing with an imposter:
• Requests for personal information. Examples include: date of birth, social security number, Medicare ID number, credit card numbers, or bank account numbers.
• Requests for payment of any kind. No contest, prize or grant recipients have to make payment to receive their winnings or award.
• Requests for payment by wiring money or pre-paid debit cards. Providing money through either of these is the same as giving someone cash and it is not likely that it can be traced or retrieved once given.
• Threats and urgency. The more threatening the call – you’ll be arrested, have to go to court, have your credit ruined the more likely it is from an imposter. Calls requiring urgent action from someone you do not know are likely made by imposters.
• Requests for secrecy. This is especially true for appeals for financial assistance from relatives who say “Don’t tell my mom and dad.”
• IRS or Department of Treasury. Threatening calls that you must pay now for tax violations. The IRS will not contact you by phone. They would contact you by mail. They will not make threats.
• Federal Grant Award. Do not be fooled by the 202 area code looks like the call is coming from Washington, D.C. These unsolicited grants are not awarded. In the rare case where someone receives a grant they did not apply for, no payment is required to receive the grant.
• Medicare or Affordable Health Care Act. The caller claims to be a government representative insisting that you provide personal identification information and/or pay a fee or face loss of benefits. Government agencies will contact you by mail, not by phone. They will not make threats on the phone.
• Lottery or Prize Winner. The caller says you have won but an administrative fee, shipping, or taxes need to be paid. You never have to pay for a prize or winnings.
• Family Assistance. Also known as the “Grandparents Scam.” These callers prey on the goodwill and desire to help family. The caller will say they are a family member, usually a younger one, in some kind of trouble needing immediate financial assistance. These scammers will feed off of information you inadvertently give them. The caller will ask you not to call someone who could verify the legitimacy of the call (“Don’t call mom or dad”) and to send money in an untraceable manner.
• Utility shut off. The caller states you haven’t paid your utility bill and someone is on the way over to disconnect your service unless you make an immediate payment to the caller. These calls target small businesses but some consumers report receiving these calls at home. To check if what the caller says is true, call the number on your billing statement, not the number the caller gives you.
The best defense against all these imposter scam is to not respond.
• Do not answer the call. Use your Caller ID. If you do not recognize the number, let it go to your answering machine or voicemail. If you do answer the call, hang up as soon as you realize this is not someone you want to talk with. Talking to these callers or calling them back will likely result in additional contacts from them and other scammers.
• Delete email from unknown senders. If you do not know who sent it, do not open it. Sometimes opening an email is enough to tell a scammer that this is a valid address and they will continue to send you email. If you do not know who sent it, never click on a link or attachment in an email.
• Verify your search result. Before acting on the result of an online search, check to make sure you are dealing with the company you want. If you do make contact, watch for the signs of a scam.
• Do not call the verification number you are given. Call the number on a billing statement, found in the phone book or reliable online directory. Never check to see if something is legit using the number given to you on the call, mailer, email or message.