Identity Theft / Scams
With the abundance of technology these days, it’s very easy for scammers to get your personal information and use it against you, such as applying for credit cards, car loans, etc. A new scam that has been increasing in the last year is telephone scams. It’s essential to know which telephone calls are scams and which ones are legitimate calls.
Below are some common scams that are happening to people in America today:
Identity Theft Alert – Jury Duty Scam
The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court. He claims that you have failed to report for jury duty and a warrant has been issued for your arrest. The victim will then rightly claim that they never received any type of notification regarding the jury duty. The scammer will then ask the victim for confidential information for “verification purposes.”
Specifically, the scammer will ask for the victims social security number, date of birth, and sometimes even credit card numbers and other private information. This is exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.
Preventative action: Never give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal and confidential information when you receive a telephone call. The Jury Duty scam is a variation on identity theft scams where the telephone is used to try and get people to reveal their personal information.
You have won a contest! Or the lottery! Or the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes! All you have to do to claim your prize is to pay some fees or taxes in advance so they can release your prize… This is not a new scam, but it is a perennial problem.
Click Bait Scam
This one takes many forms, but the most notorious of the past year was when the Malaysian Airline plane went missing (“click here for video”). Other click bait schemes use celebrity images, fake news, and other enticing stories to get you to unintentionally download malware.
Robocall Scam: Rachel From Cardholder Services
The notorious “Rachel from Cardholder Services” made a comeback in 2014. This scam claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates and takes personal information – including your credit card number – and then charges fees to your card.
Arrest Scam – IRS Tax Violation
You receive an ominous phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the IRS in the United States). They are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty… but you can avoid it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Another variation on this is that you’ll be arrested for an overdue payday loan. Whatever the “violation,” it’s scary to be threatened with arrest, and many people pay out of fear.
Here are some tips to make sure that you do not get “scammed:”
1. Take Your Time – Scams work the best when the victim doesn’t have time to think things through. If you panic and act without thinking, the scammer has you. Never let yourself be rushed into anything, especially if the person is taking great pains to rush you. Take a few deep breaths and approach the situation calmly. Most scams will unravel with a little scrutiny. Remember: There is no crisis so big that waiting a few extra minutes, or even a few hours, is going to make a difference.
2. Ask Questions – Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You might feel like a bad person for questioning a “relative’s” story about how they wound up in a Mexican jail and need you to send them money. If you aren’t all that tech savvy, you might feel hesitant to argue with a knowledgeable tech support person. Scammers know people feel this way and count on it to keep their victims from digging too deep. So start asking questions, “Why didn’t you call your parents instead?” “How do you know what version of Windows I have?” “How can I win a prize if I didn’t sign up for anything?” The scammer might have answers prepared for some of these, but keep asking and eventually their story will unravel. Or they’ll decide you’re too much trouble and leave the conversation.
3. Verify The Answers – Don’t just take the word of the person on the phone. If it’s a relative calling from overseas, get a number you can call them back on. Then call the regular number you have for that person, or their parents, or spouse, or any other relatives who might know their travel plans. Check their Facebook page and see if they’ve mentioned traveling (most people do, even though it’s not a good idea). If the person is claiming to be from a company, get their name and department. Then go look up the company’s number on the Internet and call that. Ask for the person and see if they work there. Just telling a scammer you’re going to do this is often enough to throw them off. Even if they’re OK with it, take the time they’re off the phone to call up a tech-savvy or finance-savvy relative and see if the story checks out.
4. DON’T PAY! – There is no situation where you should give your payment information or Social Security number to an unsolicited caller. Some companies will take payment information over the phone, but you’re usually calling them. Similarly, most companies that deal with a Social Security number will already have it and ask you only for the last four digits. Another red flag is the caller asking for a wire money transfer. Wire transfers are a favorite tool of scammers because once you send the money it’s gone forever. If you hear the words “wire transfer,” “Western Union,” “moneygram” or the name of another wire transfer service, assume it’s a scam.
5. Don’t Engage – If you figure out that the person calling you is a scammer, the best thing to do is hang up. You might be tempted to string them along, like this security expert, but that can get scary. One “victim” was playing with a scammer and it turned ugly when the scammer said, “I’m thinking to kill you now.” Listen to the chilling conversation. Instead, you can report scams to the Federal Communications Commission. You can also fire off a message to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. However, don’t expect too much in the way of response. Your best bet is to share your story with your friends and family so they aren’t fooled. You can also add the numbers the scammer gave you to 800 Notes to help other people avoid a similar scam. If you’re getting scam calls on your smartphone, grab an app like TrueCaller that will help identify and block them before you pick up. Make sure all your phones are on the Do Not Call list so you know any unsolicited robocalls or telemarketing calls are most likely spam.
Scam Tips and Information Provided by the following: