Here Are Helpful Tips on How to Identify Scams
What Is a Scam?
A scam is when a person proposes a misleading scheme. This is also called fraud.
A scam can be initiated by mail, e-mail, phone calls, texting, checks, websites, and social media.
Scams work by getting your attention whether it be money, bailing someone you know out of trouble, viruses on computers or other mobile devices, discounts, or even stating someone has stole your personal information such as social security, etc. Scammers will either be charming or intimidating and often pressure you to make a fast decision whether its giving money, bank account information, or even personal information.
Here are Examples of Common Scams:
The Grandparent Scam
This scam is one of the most common and targets seniors. The scammer calls a senior stating they are a close relative, such as a grandson or granddaughter. The scammer will tell the target they are out of town and sound in distress stating they are in trouble or have an emergency and need help immediately. The scammer may have some information on your family which they may have collected off social media and will prompt you to give more information to make the situation sound more real. They often will ask for you to send money to bail or help them out.
- Be aware of who you are speaking with on the phone! If you are unsure about the situation, ask the individual for a number to call back and hang up the phone. Contact a family member to verify location of the person that is supposedly contacting you. If you find your family member is safe and sound and wasn't the one contacting you, you should contact your local authorities and report the phone call you received.
The scammer will send their suspect information stating they have won something of value whether its money, a prize, or discount. Often these scams are received by mail, e-mail, text, or phone call. In order to receive your money, prize, or discount, the scammer may ask for personal information such as bank account to deposit your winnings into, ask you to send a check or money order to cover fees, or even to purchase an item. Scammers will often use companies that sound familiar to make the scam seem legitimate.
- Do not respond to these types of messages! Legitimate companies do not ask for money or financial information up front over the phone. It is best practice to never release your personal information and banking information over the phone.
Home Improvement Scam
Scammers will contact their suspects by providing home improvement services in order to gain access to their home, personal belongings, and personal information. After a scammer has received your address, they arrive at your home and offer free inspections or offer to fix something that is broken or needs work. Scammer will pretend to be with a well known company or city to seem more legitimate. This scam is often targeted towards seniors.
- Always stay in control of who is entering your home! If you feel suspicious or uncomfortable, ask the scammer for identification. If the scammer can't provide the accurate information, ask them to leave and call your local authorities.
Scammers will contact their suspect by claiming to be from a credit card company, IRS, Social Security Administration, any common utility company, TV provider, etc. They will often pressure their suspect to give personal information over the phone. This way the suspect can get out of trouble whether it is with a bill or other debt, or someone stealing their identity, etc.
- Never feel pressured to commit to anything over the phone!
- Don't rely on caller ID. Scammers can often mask numbers that are familiar to seem more legitimate.
- Never give out personal information to an unsolicited caller. This includes birthdate, social security number, banking information, passwords, usernames, mother's maiden name, or even pet's name. Anything that obtains to you, it is best not to release any information to someone that you can't confirm.
- If you feel suspicious or uncomfortable with the phone call, hang up the phone and call the company (that was supposedly contacting you) directly to see if it was a legitimate phone call. To find an accurate number for a company, it is best practice to refer to your bill to get the accurate contact information.
Scammers are clever for using technology to take advantage of their suspects online. Scammers are often targeting seniors. Scammers are looking to get personal information such as usernames, passwords, banking information, etc. They will send an e-mail stating to click on a link to see a "prize" or "special offer" and are in full control after the suspect has selected the unsafe URL. Here a few tips to keep in mind to keep your information safe online:
- Never click on links in e-mails.
- Don't open attachments for special offers.
- Be careful of free offers.
- Watch for malicious ads and popups.
- Don't shop with a public Wi-Fi.
- Only buy gift cards from trusted sources.
- Make sure the site you are visiting is secure. A helpful tip is to look for the lock icon and https on your browser address.
- Make sure your computer is updated with anti-virus, malware, and security software.
- Don't save credit card information online. Checkout as a guest if offered on the site.
Although there are many great charities worthy of your donations, be aware of who you are giving your donations too. A couple pointers to follow when donating:
- Always verify the charity before making the donation. This can be done by checking with your Attorney General's Office.
- Ask the charity what will be done with your donation.
- Avoid charities that will not provide more information about their program.
- Talk with family, friends, or trusted sources before donating.
- Never give cash or purchase gift cards for payment.
If you are feeling suspicious or concerned that you may have been scammed, contact your local law enforcement immediately. Remember to keep good record of your banking and credit card statements. Always report unusual activity! If you would like more information on scams, please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts