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Tips to avoid scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sound advice for all of us.

Anyone can fall victim to scams. A 2022 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that adults of all ages fall for scams, but the type of scams is different for older and younger adults. Adults 60 and older typically report more losses than younger adults with tech support, prize or lottery scams. Adults ages 18-59 are more prone to scams about online shopping, bogus cryptocurrency investment opportunities and phony jobs. Fraud via phone calls are more effective with older adults, while younger adults tend to fall victim to fraud via social media.

Scammers are getting ever more sophisticated. We can too. When we understand that scams are more than simple gullibility, we take the first steps to outsmarting scammers. Scams play into our emotions. Scammers pretend to be someone they are not and create an intense state of mind using emotional and psychological manipulation, stated Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO). They also demand immediate payment.

There are several typical scams to be aware of so they can be avoided. DCSO compiled a list of some of the most common scams they get reports about. This is not an exhaustive list, and the examples are just the most common DCSO sees. Scammers use a variety of stories and situations to trick potential victims.

Wallet and purse theft often happen in grocery stores, where purses are left open in a shopping cart. One assailant will distract the victim, often by asking a question about the location of a specific product, while another snatches the wallet.

Mail theft and check fraud is when identification and checks are stolen from residential mailboxes. It’s safer to drop outgoing personal checks at the post office.

In the grandson has been in an accident scam, a thief calls and pretends to be the victim’s grandson, who is in trouble in a far-flung location. They need money to pay bail, or get home, or any variety of lies. If you get such a call, try calling back the grandson’s number. If you can’t reach him, verify his whereabouts with another family member before sending money.

Job interview scams occur when thieves respond to a posted resume. They contact prospective employees and conduct all communication via text or email, often promising a work from home job. They send a fake check and ask for cash or gifts cards to buy materials to set up the office.

Message hacking happens across all digital platforms from email to social media. If a message or post looks odd, or asks you to do something, verify with the person the message is supposedly from. Talk to them face to face if possible, or on a different digital platform, to be certain that the message is from them before taking any action.

The romance scam happens over several months to years. It typically begins on online dating sites. It seems like a romantic relationship, but the thief uses fake photos and documentation, telling the victim they are rich and working overseas. They can never meet in person; the thief always has an excuse. Eventually they ask for money via wire transfer.

In the Craigslist seller scam the victim finds a car ad for a very low price and is told either the spouse recently died and the thief can not bear to have the car around, or the thief says they are being deployed and need to sell the car immediately. They ask for the money upfront, but never deliver the car.

The Publishers Clearing House scam is particularly aimed at older adults. The victim is informed they won a large sum of money but need to send money to cover taxes or processing fees. They are told to keep it a secret, so they don’t ruin the surprise.

Computer takeover scams are tech support scams where legitimate companies are impersonated and after clicking a fraudulent link, a popup appears saying you must pay a large fee to have malware removed from your computer or phone. There is no malware, but the hacker gains access to the information on your computer. Restarting your computer breaks the link if you fear this is happening.

The fraudulent official phone call scam is an incoming phone call that appears to be from an official agency like the IRS or police. They demand a large payment, often in gift cards, to avoid getting in trouble (claiming you owe taxes, have a warrant out, missed jury duty, etc.). Often the thief stays on the phone while the victim goes to various stores purchasing increasingly larger gift cards. They tell the victim they will be arrested if they hang up the phone.

Opening accounts in your name is a result of long-time hacking into large companies’ databases. This is nearly impossible to avoid. The best protection is to freeze your credit with all three credit agencies and only unlock it for a maximum of a few days when you need to open it for yourself.

“Scammers will attempt to defraud you using phone calls, texts, emails, your social media, and anything else they can think of. Anytime you are asked to send money by MoneyGram, Venmo, Zelle, gift cards, Western Union, etc., be suspicious. No government agency takes gift cards no matter what the scammer says. No reputable company will ever contact you to say there’s something wrong with your computer,” stated DCSO.

Restart your phone or computer if you suspect you are a victim of these scams, and reset your passwords. Directly contact your bank, credit card company, or any other reputable person or business with contact information that is publicly available, not with the contact information in the questionable correspondence.

If you are a victim of scamming and fraudulent activity, report it to the DCSO and the FTC. Then spread the word. Share your experience with friends and family so they are aware and more able to avoid getting scammed themselves.


By Celeste McNeil



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