Protecting Yourself from Scams

Charity Scams

When a disaster strikes, the scam artists will not be too far behind.    Playing off of our desire to help others in need, scammers will call representing bogus charities asking for donations.  Unfortunately the money you give will never go to those who need it. 

If you are donating money to a charity; donate to a charity you know and trust.  Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau.  Never send cash.  Don’t give out financial information unless you know the charity is reputable.

For more information visit the FTC http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity

Grandparents Scams

You answer your phone.  The voice on the line says, “Grandma”.  You attempt to recognize the voice.  “Billy? Is that you?”

This is how a typical Grandparents call scam would start.  The scammer will use the phone book or other resources that publish land lines to pick phone numbers to call.  Once you answer with a name of a Grandchild, they will give you a story ranging from being broken down on a trip and needing money for car repairs, to having been arrested and needing money to bail out of jail.  Sometimes they will hand the phone to another person posing as a repair person or attorney, to avoid having you realize you are not talking to your Grandchild.  They will request you not tell their mom or dad for fear of additional trouble.  They will then ask you to wire money.

To avoid being a victim, hang up the phone and always confirm with other family members if “Billy” really is in trouble

IRS and Tax Scams

Tax Form Picture.jpg

Scammers will call you up and claim to be with the IRS.  They will give you a fake name and IRS badge number.  The caller may even be able to provide some of your personal information.  They will claim you are entitled to a large refund or you owe money immediately.  They may even threaten that law enforcement will be at your house within the hour if you do not agree to pay.

The IRS will always send notification in writing of any taxes due.  They will never request payment information, such as credit card, debit card, or pre-paid card numbers over the telephone.

Per the IRS, if you think you may owe taxes, call 1-800-829-1040 and an IRS employee can help you.

Lottery Scams

In a lottery scam you will receive a call saying you’ve won the grand prize, usually hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.  All you have to do is pay a small processing fee or tax amount to claim your prize.  The caller will often tell you to wire the fee or provide them with a pre-paid credit card.  They advise you that once they receive payment, they will send you your lottery winnings.  But the check will never arrive and the victim will be out the money.

To avoid falling victim, remember if you didn’t play, you can’t win.  Also remember that if you’re told you have to pay a fee to collect a prize, you haven’t won anything.  

Tech Support Scams

Scam artists will call you and try to break into your computer.  The caller will state they are with a well-known company like Microsoft, claiming they have detected viruses or other malware on your computer.  They ask you to give them remote access to your computer, or request sensitive information, like passwords.  Once access is obtained they will download malicious software to your computer that steals sensitive data, like your financial data and other personal information.  They may also ask for credit card information to bill you for the phony services.

Microsoft and other companies will not call you to charge you for computer security or software fixes.  To avoid being a victim, hang up and call the company yourself.  Never reveal your passwords, pin numbers, or other sensitive information over the phone.

Utilities and Services Scams

You receive a phone call from someone stating they are with the power company.  They claim you are behind on your bill.  You must pay immediately or they will shut off your power.  They then ask you to go to the store and purchase a prepaid credit card. They will call back later to obtain the number.  Instead of demanding a prepaid card, they may also ask for personal information and credit card numbers.

Be skeptical of those calling and demanding payment without being able to provide you with information only the utility company would know, your account number for example.  To avoid being a victim, the utility company and verify.   Use official company sites to pay your bill on-line. 

Warrants and Fines Scams

In a warrant or fine scam, the scammer will call up and claim to be with local law enforcement.  They will demand immediate payment for traffic tickets or for an existing warrant in lieu of being arrested.  The person will be directed to purchase a pre-paid credit card.  The scammer will then call back to get the payment information.

To avoid being a victim, hang up immediately and contact law enforcement.  A legitimate law enforcement agency would not call and demand money to avoid arrest or for any other circumstances.

Phishing and Social Networking

Be leery of e-mails or text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, you are directed to follow a link or call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individual to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate; however, any personal information you provide, such as account number and personal identification number (PIN), will be stolen.

Another scam involves victims receiving an e-mail message directing the recipient to a spoofed website. A spoofed website is a fake site or copy of a real website that is designed to mislead the recipient into providing personal information.

Consumers are encouraged to beware of bargain e-mails advertising one day only promotions for recognized brands or websites. Fraudsters often use the hot items of the season to lure bargain hunters into providing credit card information. The old adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," is a good barometer to use to legitimize e-mails.