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Scammed No More: Avoiding Being Scammed Online
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Scammed No More: Avoiding Being Scammed Online

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          No, you didn’t actually get an email from a wealthy Nigerian prince. No one has been trying to reach you about your vehicle’s extended warranty. No, you aren’t actually a winner in some online giveaway you didn’t enter. And no, you didn’t see Elvis.
          Since practically the beginning of time, the shadiest of the shady have been scamming people into doing things or parting with their belongings or money. Sometimes the scams are so horribly bad, they’re easy to spot. Sometimes, they’re so good, they convince people to hand over their life savings because scammers made them believe a lie. Unfortunately, the majority of the people who fall victim to these thieves and scammers are the elderly. 
         Phone scams are by far the most common scams used against senior citizens. Scammers either pretend to be anyone from a government
presentative, a bill collector, a long lost family member, or a police officer. They gain the senior’s trust or scare them into doing something, usually sending money in some peculiar way like loading up a gift card.
         There are easy ways to spot scam artists and keep you and your family safe from being victimized by these crafty thieves. But the best advice anyone give that isn’t part of this list is to always keep in mind the old saying: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”


Staying Safe and Avoiding Scams

  1. Let it Ring - By far, one of the easiest ways to avoid being the victim of a phone scam is to simply not answer a call from an unknown number. Most people now have caller ID service on their phone so you don’t even need to answer it if you don’t recognize the phone number. Even robo calls will go straight to voicemail and you can quickly recognize a number as being just another scammer.

  2. If You Don’t Recognize the Voice, Hang Up - If someone claims to be a long lost relative or claims to be a friend of a relative, don’t say anything else and hang up the phone. Call the relative they mentioned and ask them if they told anyone to call you and if they say no, you’ll know it was a scammer. Chances are, the person who called you likely will not call again and if they do, you’ll know not to answer the number.

  3. Phone Numbers Lie - Phone number spoofing has made determining a legitimate number from a fake one incredibly difficult. Essentially, phone number spoofing is a technical way of saying someone is hiding their real phone number with a fake number. They can even make their number look like the number of a city or government agency. This is why you should never answer phone calls from numbers you don’t know. Let the call go voicemail and hear it back. If you’re not sure if the call was legitimate, call the organization directly yourself and ask if they contacted you. More often than not, government offices won’t call you; they’ll send a letter first.

  4. Keep Your Personal Information Private - Never give out your full name, birth date, address, or any other personally identifiable information to someone you don’t know. Scammers can use this information to open up accounts in your name or access accounts you’ve opened. It’s even important to avoid answering yes or no questions as scammers have been known to record people’s responses.

  5. If They Call Wanting Money, It’s a Scam - The person on the phone says you owe a lot of money, and police have been notified. But they’re willing to “close your case” if you wire part of the money you owe right now. Before they even get to the how part, hang up the phone. Fear is the number one tactic used by scammers, especially on those with fixed incomes like the elderly. People believe they’re going to be arrested and give up their life savings to stay out of jail. Remember this simple rule: the police want to arrest you, they’ll knock on your door.

  6. No One Collects Money on Gift Cards - Many of these scammers will try to attempt to get you to send them money by way of a gift card. If they ask you to drive to a store, buy an iTunes gift card, Google Play card, reloadable Visa or Mastercard, or any type of gift card, hang up the phone. They’ll try to get you to load money on these cards, then you’ll need to give them the account number on the back of the card so they can transfer the funds to their accounts. No government agency, collection agency, or reputable business will ever ask you to repay a debt by going and buying a gift card.

  7. Always Do Your Research - The internet has made checking up on some of the scams incredibly easy. If you get a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, type it into a search engine like Google along with the word “scam” to see if other people have been called by the same number. This also works if you get a call from a company you’ve never heard of before. See if other people have dealt with this company before to see if it is legitimate, if it’s fake, or if the people are running a shady business.

  8. Never Be Afraid to Ask - If you get a call and you’re not sure if the person you’re talking to is telling the truth, tell the person on the phone you’ll be contacting someone to make sure they are who they say they are. If they get nervous and try to convince you to say on the phone or demand you pay up immediately, they are definitely scammers. If they allow you to hang up, call a friend or family member and tell them about what happened. You can also call your local government agencies and ask them if the call was legitimate.

  9. Don’t Overshare - It might be tempting to let all your friends and family know what you’re up to on social media, but don’t share too much. Posting information about yourself like your favorite things, names of family members, your birthday, and even the names of your pets is generally not safe. The reason being is that scammers browse social media profiles who don’t have proper security measures in place and will steal that information. With enough information, they can become you and you’d never notice.

  10. Protect Your Number - The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, maintains a federal Do Not Call Registry. This is a database of phone numbers that telemarketers are not supposed to call. Placing your number on this list should reduce the number of telemarketer calls you get, but it’s not perfect. If a company calls you after you’ve registered your number, you can report them to the FTC or you can even sue telemarketers in small claims court. 

        If you’re ever not sure about the person on the phone, trust your gut and hang up the phone. Don’t ever allow yourself to be intimidated or scared by a stranger on the phone because that is often how many people become victims of these scammers. Simply hang up the phone and block their number if you’re able. And of course, if anyone ever claims to be a long lost relative or a friend of someone in your family. If you weren’t expecting their call or don’t know who they are, just hang up.

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