How to avoid telephone and computer scams; and some scams explained.

Scams, by phone, via social media, and by email, are more common than you might think, and unfortunately, many folks fall for them.

Here is the latest to be reported in my town – this one is a computer scam, and it starts by sending you a pop-up message stating that your CPU is infected with a virus , or one saying that your computer has been hacked.

The pop-up will ask you to call a phone number, and if you do, you get a person claiming to work for Microsoft who will “help” you; they will subsequently find that someone from Russia has tried to hack into your computer, and into your bank accounts.

The scammer will then offer to help you by contacting your bank, but they will soon call you back, telling you the bank won’t give them the account information. Next, they tell you they have given the bank your number so the bank can call you to get things fixed.

Now, “your bank” calls you, and they will have bad news- you have already become a victim of the Russian hack, and that you have suffered thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges.

The original person will get you back on the phone after that bad news, and they State they will get your money back, but you will need to purchase prepaid gift cards to basically put a bond on the missing cash, which will enable them to recover the money you lost to the Russians.

Once you get the cards, they will ask you to give them the numbers on the back of the card, to prove you actually have the cards. (They then access the money by using those numbers, draining the card funds)

Another popular local scam involves a pending arrest for failing to come to jury duty. The scammers will tell you that to stop the arrest warrant proceedings, you can get a prepaid card and pay a fine via the card. The scammers will get the numbers off the card, and drain it, then instruct you to go take the card to the sheriffs office. You show up at the sheriff’s office to find there never was a pending warrant, and the card is now empty.

When they get the card numbers, you will have lost all the money on there, and your lost money is pretty much untraceable at that point.

We see many variations of phone scams, but most all end with you getting the prepaid card, and giving them the card access numbers to prove your good faith effort. Once they get that number, the card is drained.

It’s only after you follow their instructions, and follow through with their planned scenario, that you find out the whole thing was a scam, and the money you put on the card is gone.

Professional scanners are good at what they do, and can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That’s called spoofing, so even if it looks like a legit agency, person, or a local business calling, the call could be coming from anywhere.

If you receive a suspicious contact, don’t assume it to be real, and never rush into anything. Get the name of the entity calling you, then take it upon yourself to locate the entity’s contact info, then call them. Chances are, when you tell them you will be hanging up and calling a number for them that you find yourself, you will get plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t do that. If you persist, you will probably get a dial tone. Try running the company through a search engine and check “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Also, run the phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scammers.

Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods. Never wire money, and as addressed above, never get a pre-paid card.

Also, if you get a phone call and hear a recording, hang up because their products are bogus.

Lastly, never take and cash a check sent to you by an unsolicited source. If that check turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

Here are a few more general types of scams to look out for, most are by phone, but social media, and e-mail scams are poplar as well.

Imposter scams

A scammer pretends to be a Government agency of some type, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or a local law enforcement agency. The scammer can even have that fake name or number show up on your caller ID. Another scam in this category is using a relationship angle to get in the door, they claim to be an acquaintance of yours by using a cloned Facebook profile, an try to get you to friend them; once you do, they hit you with the scam. My FB page was cloned earlier in the week, and several of my friends were hit.

Car warranty scams

Scammers try to sell you overpriced — or worthless — car warranties. I get this call several times a month, and it’s usually from a local phone number.

Charity scams

Scammers like to pose as charities. Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common. Covid-19 relief scams are everywhere these days, so be careful who you give money to. Always check out the charity before you give, and don’t give into pressure to give immediately, a definite scam tactic.

Prize and lottery scams

In a typical prize scam, the scammer will say you’ve won a prize, but you need to pay a some sort of a small fee to register , or some similar ploy. Once you pay, you find out there was no prize, at least not for you.

Debt relief and credit repair scams

Scammers will offer to repair bad credit, or get your student loans forgiven if you pay their company a fee first. These can cause you to loose money and ruin your credit, loans don’t go away, and credit scores don’t get fixed like that.

If you’ve lost money to a phone scam, or have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

How to Stop Calls from Scammers – Info From the FTC.

Hang up

Even if it’s not a scammer calling, if a company is calling you illegally, it’s not a company you want to do business with. When you get a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls.

Consider call blocking or call labeling 

Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking (or call-labeling) technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a mobile phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). See what services your phone carrier offers, and look online for expert reviews. For mobile phones, you also can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.

Click here for more on avoiding scams. https://www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds

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