Gone phishing

Scammers are after your money and your data

Posted 3/8/23

REGION — Prices are still high, and it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to shave a few dollars here and there.

But scammers know this. It seems like there’s no end to …

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Gone phishing

Scammers are after your money and your data


REGION — Prices are still high, and it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to shave a few dollars here and there.

But scammers know this. It seems like there’s no end to scammers and their schemes to cheat you out of money as you try to save.

Thursday, March 9 is Slam the Scam Day, and while the day is meant to combat Social Security-related scams, it pays to be aware of scams, the scammers’ tactics, and what you can do about it.

What is a scam?

A scam is a fraudulent attempt to separate an unsuspecting person from their money or other goods.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), scams come in many forms.

Start with phishing. Those are emails, ads, text messages or phone calls that look or sound like they come from real companies, including those you already shop from. But the scammers want your money and your personal info, and you get nothing in return.

There are fake charities, fake tech-support people, fake debt-collection agencies, health scams (these sell you medicine or treatments that don’t work), addiction-treatment scams, people who pretend to be a family member or friend and ask for money, lottery scams, romance scams and more.

Four signs of a scam

Here’s some basic info from the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Scammers pretend to be from a familiar organization or agency, such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS or Medicare. Some pretend to be from a utility company, a tech company or even a charity asking for donations.

They might email attachments with official-looking logos, seals, signatures or pictures of employee credentials.

They’ll ask for personal information, like your Social Security number or your email or other passwords. They’ll ask you to click on a link to verify your identity or solve a problem.

Don’t do it. Call the company or agency directly

Scammers mention a problem or a prize. They could say that your Social Security number was involved in a crime, or ask for personal information to process a benefit increase. They might say you owe money, or someone in your family had an emergency or is in jail, and money is needed right now.

Some will say that you won a prize, but they need money before they’ll give it to you.

Scammers pressure you to act immediately. This is called “false urgency.” They might threaten you with arrest or legal action.

Scammers tell you to pay in certain ways: using a gift card, prepaid debit card, cryptocurrency, wire or money transfer, or by mailing cash. They might also tell you to transfer your money to a “safe” account.

Online scams

It’s not just government agencies, of course. Remember phishing: Scammers can pretend to be legitimate online businesses, take your money, and disappear. See sidebar.

Fake retail websites can be set up that look almost exactly like the real site. The URL will be very similar to the actual business. But often the deals are unusually great, or the website is full of grammatical errors, or something seems off.

Check the URL. Make sure it’s the correct one.

When in doubt, don’t buy.

How can I protect myself?

The CFPB has several suggestions.

Don’t share account numbers, Social Security numbers or passwords with anyone. Especially not with someone who calls you up or emails, asking for help.

 Don’t say yes right away to a sales pitch, even if the seller tells you it’s a limited-time offer. Compare prices. Do some research. And if you use Google or another search engine, look through several pages. Do a search that specifically asks for negative reviews.

Companies can use search engines to ensure that the info they want you to see comes first.

 If it looks too good to be true, the saying goes, it probably is.

 If someone asks you to pay with wire transfers, prepaid cards, gift cards or money transfers, don’t do it. And don’t send cash, either.

Don’t give anyone access to your computer or phone, unless you’re sure they’re a legitimate repair person.

But what if you’ve been scammed?

The FTC has a detailed list of what to do if you’ve given money to a scammer, broken down by types of payment. Find it at consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-do-if-you-were-scammed.

Keep scrolling down that page, and learn what to do if you gave someone personal information, or access to your device.

Will we all end as scam victims?

Scams happen, and not just to seniors.

In 2021, the FTC reports, people aged 18 to 59 were 34 percent more likely to report losing money to fraud, especially shopping fraud—and particularly to scams that began with an ad on social media.

People aged 70 to 79 reported fewer scams, but when they were victimized, they lost more money—a median loss of $800.

So the answer is: we won’t necessarily lose money to scammers, but we’re all vulnerable. It makes sense to learn how scams work, and to report them to the FTC when they happen.

Learn more




scam, fraud, fraud protection, scam avoidance, Slam the Scam Day


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