Reports indicate that phone and internet scammers reached an all-time high during 2020 while more people were home and the current scamming trends will continue. Many of us know the basic scams but crooks continue to become more sophisticated and prey on the vulnerable, often our older family members who are often living alone and the scammers use tactics meant to invoke fear in them. Here are some common scams to watch out for:
- Robocalls from the supposed IRS, Medicare, or home/car warranties are a common nuisance and most of us know that they are a scam, but some people are susceptible to the tactics that the scammers use. If you receive these calls the best thing to do is hang up, otherwise you will be switched to a person who will use scare tactics to try and get you to send them money or give them access to your computer. No reputable company would ask you to do either thing.
- Many of us receive emails from strangers (often a prince from another country) asking if they can wire money to your account to keep it away from someone who means them harm and then offer to split the money with you. No one is giving you free money; they just want the details to your bank account.
- Another tactic scammers use is emails asking you to log into popular sites such as Amazon, PayPal or a bank. They often include a link for you to click on which is often a virus that allows the hackers access to your computer and all your personal information. Instead of clicking on the link go directly to the site if you are worried that someone has accessed your account.
- Text messages are one of the new ways that scammers are using technology to gather people’s personal and financial info. If you did not give a company permission to text you, do not respond or click on any link that they provide. According to AARP, text messages have a psychological hook built in because people don’t typically receive text messages from strangers. Many will have links or ask you to provide usernames, passwords and credit card numbers.
- When buying a house, people often have the money wired from their bank to the title company. The title company or attorney will email the wire instructions to the buyer in preparation of the property purchase. Sophisticated hackers will send an email to the buyer that looks like it came from one of these entities with wire instructions days before the real people would send wire instructions. People have been duped out of tens of thousands of dollars.
- If anyone asks for payment in the form of gift cards or cash, they are trying to steal from you, no one will ask you for these types of payments. If a text or email appears to be from someone you know and they ask you to pick up gift cards for them, call them first!
What you can do to keep yourself (or your loved ones) safe:
- Please talk to any family member who you think might be susceptible to these threats. Scammers often use scare tactics that include threats of arrest, act intensely worried for you, or act very nice to create a rapport before they ask for money. I encountered one of these scams when a fake Microsoft employee called me at 9:00pm one night to tell me my computer had been breached and I must go to my computer right away so they could “help” secure my info; the scammer created a sense of urgency and acted afraid for me. Luckily, I realized what was going on and hung up.
- The best thing to do with robocalls is to hang up and with scammer emails and text messages is to delete them.
- If you are buying a house and are sent wire instructions, call the attorney or title company directly to confirm their directions and do not use the phone number on the wire instruction email (this number will also be fake), use the phone number you already have. Note that most wire instructions will be sent to you one to two days ahead of time.
- If your information has been stolen you can go to identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and start a recovery plan.
- Get free credit checks through your bank to make sure that there are not any unauthorized credit cards open in your name.
- Educate yourself on the latest scams, check out AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, they have a wealth of information to keep consumers informed at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
The best way to keep yourself and loved ones safe is to stay educated and above all else never give out your personal information. If you are suspicious, ask questions and follow up, people who have your best interests at heart will not be insulted by your questions.
Lee Ernst Group, Reimagining your life with the Perfect Home or Property
630-514-4306 | 602-486-2255