Don’t be (April) Fooled by Scams

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These days, scams are serious business.  The typical pattern for scam artists is first, they create a new scam. People fall prey to it, authorities crack down on it, and then the scammers create a new, improved version.  The current danger is that fraudsters not only call you, they now send emails and text messages as well.

Phone Scams

At home, we’ve received a variety of telephone scams.  First, there’s the IRS recorded call indicating we owe money, are in big trouble, and better call some phony number to square up.  Please remember this: The IRS doesn’t call you when you owe taxes. They send a letter.  Only once you have an established communication with an IRS agent would you receive a phone call.

A second type of call we get frequently involves a real person on the phone instead of a recording.  Typically, the callers are men claiming they are calling from some technology company about our computers.  I don’t know for certain, because I don’t engage in conversation, but I’m pretty sure they are pretending to sell me some service for my computer to gain access to it or get me to purchase something over the phone.  I stop the conversation early and simply ask them to remove us from their list.  Then I hang up.

Another routine scam call we get involves a recorded message from “Credit Card Services” about our credit card account.  The frequency of these calls is particularly annoying.  Of course, no company is identified.

Protect Yourself from Phone Scams

Just say NO.  Never accept solicitations by phone for ANYTHING.  If it is a company or service you have never heard of, just tell them “No thank you” and ask to be removed from their list.  If the offer sounds at all interesting or tempting, request information in the mail to review.  If they do not have your address, then politely refuse to provide it and hang up.  It’s not difficult.  Just say “Sorry, I never accept solicitations by phone.”  That works even on legitimate charity calls.  If you have a charitable soft spot, simply ask them to send you information.  If they are legitimate, they will.

Screen your calls.  Use caller ID to see who is calling before picking up the phone.  Unknown number?  Let it roll to voicemail.  A legitimate caller might leave a message.  A scam artist most likely will not.

Eliminate your landline.  Many folks are doing this and making do with just their cellular phones.  The horrifying thing is now I’m starting to get these crazy calls on my cellphone, too!  It’s maddening.

Internet Scams

The internet is far trickier.  Windows pop up interrupting your browsing with some warning or offer and are easy enough to dismiss as trouble.  But what about websites that you seek out?  And what about those pesky emails that come in from all corners of the world, offering services or asking for money?

My daily inbox often becomes filled with obvious spam.  But sometimes the email looks legitimate on the surface.  Practice disciplined discernment when you evaluate the legitimacy of solicitations.  It never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

Just say NO, again.  NEVER accept any solicitation via email, unless it is from a company or organization with whom you have prior experience. Even then, be cautious.

Too good to be true?  If you see an advertisement online that seems too good to be true, certainly be suspicious.  Open a separate browser window and do a bit of sleuthing.  Try Snopes or just Googling, “Is XYZ company a scam?”  Spend the time to ensure you are dealing with a reputable company.

Minimize your browsing to reputable sites.  If you conduct an on-line search, limit your browsing to sites that appear real.  Once on the site, if you see lots of typos or other suspicious things, close the window and start over.  Our price of having access to the world online is that it’s critical we always pay attention.

Stay up to date.  A simple Google search for “current phone scams” or “current internet scams” will bring you numerous sites to review to stay abreast of the scams of the day.  A good place to start is USA.gov.

This is all tiring and worrisome.  It’s also simply “crappy stuff we have to deal with in the modern age.”  Having to be constantly on guard and always suspicious stinks.  But remember that scam artists are as old as time.  Their methods have changed, but the concept is universal:  If they can steal your money, they will.

What scams have you experienced?  Share below!

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