If you don’t know basic online and real world safety habits, you’re an attractive potential target for some scammer half-way around the world, or some fraudster driving around your neighborhood. If you give personal information to a telemarketer, you shouldn’t be surprised if your name is on a credit card currently being used in three different time zones.
It’s easy to get scammed. Even Fortune 500 companies have been hacked. However, there are lots of ways the bad guys come at you. So, whether online, on the phone, or on the sidewalk in front of your house, trust no one.
Don’t become one of millions of people who are scammed in very clever ways. Here are some ways to lessen the likelihood that you’ll become a victim.
Always know who you’re dealing with. You sell a car to a guy who found you in the classifieds, and his “certified” check bounces. Who are you going to call? When you open an unsolicited email, you may let loose a horrific virus that turns your hard drive into a blob of goo, or installs a Trojan Horse timed to go off after collecting all your personal data.
Online, over the phone, in the newspaper, in the auto body shop – you can get scammed anywhere, anytime, so always know who you’re dealing with. Do they have a website? Do they have a business license? How about a real phone line – one NOT connected to a burner mobile phone.
Don’t ever wire money to someone you don’t know. Scammers pressure targets to wire the money so it gets there fast and safely. The bad guys know that wiring money is the same as wiring cash. Once it’s sent, it’s almost impossible to get back. And if it’s sent overseas, chances are you can kiss that money good-bye.*
Don’t be seduced by offers of free stuff. In most cases, it’s not free. You pay shipping and handling with your credit card. Now, they have your credit card information, and it’s all downhill from there. Never give out credit card information unless you initiated the contact by telephone, online, or snail mail. If you didn’t make initial contact, don’t give out any sensitive information. To anyone!
Also, always check the address window of the order page on your computer. You want to see an address that starts with: https. The “s” stands for secure, meaning you’re on a secure connection. No “s”, no sale.
Get off the sucker list. If you bought something from a telemarketer once, years ago, you’re probably still on the sucker list – a solid gold marketing tool for hacks and scammers. Contact your state consumer protection agency to add your name to the “do not call” list. The number to register for the federal “do not call” list is 1.888.567.8688. Once registered, it’s illegal for telemarketers to call you. If they do, get all their information, ask for a call-back number, and call your state consumer protection agency to report the call and who made it. Stop telemarketers, and if one does get through, don’t buy whatever they’re selling.
Getting scammed while collecting the mail. Think it isn’t possible? You’re at the mailbox, a dump truck stops and the driver tells you he’s ordered too much driveway sealer, but he’ll sell it to you for half-price. Roofing contractors knock on your door to tell you your roof needs replacement now!
You can get scammed at home just minding your own business. A knock at the door. A well-groomed young lady is collecting data for the town and you’re giving this grifter all the information she needs to create a new identity.
If it sounds too good to be true, you know it is too good to be true. And always check credentials. An honest census collector will be happy to provide an 800 number to check to see that he is, indeed, a census taker. A scam artist will move on to a more gullible target.
Read monthly statements. Carefully review all charges to your credit card and all debit withdrawals from your bank account. If you find a discrepancy, contact the credit card issuer, close the account immediately, and alert the card issuer that your identity has been compromised, as in “I’ve been scammed.”
Guard your money like it’s…your money. Never give out account numbers. Never let someone use your ATM “just this once,” and always know where your wallet is. No one will protect your money or assets as carefully as you will.
Protect personal information. Bad guys want three things: your name, your address, and your Social Security number. It’s easy to get the first two, even if you aren’t listed in the phone book.
Getting that Social Security number is the tricky part. So, you get a call from your “bank” about suspicious account activity. And the fraud expert asks for your credit card number to verify this fraudulent activity. Chances are, you’d provide your credit card number to someone from your very own bank.
But stop and think about it. Wouldn’t your credit card issuer already have your account number, your name and address? They send statements every month, so why are they asking you for this sensitive information?
If you get a call like this, simply ask the caller to provide the information they have on file and then you’ll confirm its accuracy. Never give a stranger credit card or bank account information – ever. It’s like handing the bad guys the keys to the bank.
Be skeptical. The caller may say they’re from your card issuer, but they probably aren’t. They may claim to be from the IRS, but the IRS never contacts taxpayers by phone.
In short, to be safe, don’t give out personal information unless you initiated the call, protect your information like it was gold (because it is, in the right hands) and do your own checking. Don’t take the word of a scammer.
Learn more about scams. Unfortunately, the black hats are out there and they want your personal information. Don’t be the next victim.
*Click here for information on a wire scam that frequently targets businesses.
Click here for fraud prevention tips from the Federal Trade Commission, along with instructions on what to do if you become a victim.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.
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