Protecting Yourself from Scams
Understand How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Scams
Whether you’re shopping online to buy a car, or something much less expensive like clothing, it’s important to guard against online shopping scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, online shopping scams are one of the most common scams reported by consumers.
Regardless of where you live, scams are more prevalent than ever. How can you keep yourself safe? The Ohio Masonic Home is here to share some tips to prevent you from getting caught in an internet, texting or phone call scam.
Tips for Identifying Scams
Online scammers are smart. Be prepared to identify potential scams with the following online shopping safety tips:
- Shop on secure websites with good reputations.
- Do not shop using public Wi-Fi connections.
- Be suspicious of deals that are too good to be true.
- Avoid sellers using pressure tactics to get you to buy.
- Be wary of social media ads that may take you to an unfamiliar shopping site.
- Use a credit card to make purchases instead of debit cards, prepaid cards, or wire transfers.
- Set up bank account alerts and notifications to monitor your accounts.
- Never give out sensitive information such as your account or social security number.
- Search for the seller and the word “scam” to vet them before sending money.
- If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and walk away.
Know the Different Types of Scams
It’s imperative to know how to recognize the different types of scams. Learn to recognize the signs and know what to do if this happens to you. Here are a few examples of some of the most common types of scams and suggestions on how to deal with the situation.
It’s important to know how to shop safely so you don’t fall victim to online shopping scams. It’s better to be cautious than take a chance on losing your money. Always report scams to the Federal Trade Commission.
You may be contacted by a scammer pretending to be someone from your bank. This could come via a phone call, email, or even a text. Scammers often know some of your personal or account information. Scammers also use “spoofing technology” to disguise the number on your caller ID. If this scam is a call, the number may look like your local hospital, a business in your community or even your neighborhood school.
What you can do
- Watch out for scammers who may be able to spoof a phone number.
- Do NOT share your account numbers, SSN, access code, password, orPIN with anyone requesting it.
- If you receive a code to authorize any amount of money (even $.01) to be transferred, don’t enter the code or share it with anyone, even if they claim to be from your bank.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up, and if you receive a suspicious text, don’t respond. Contact the company directly, using verified sources such as a phone number on their website before taking action.
Fake Check Scams
Fake check scams are on the rise and customers are reporting many variations. The checks are fake but they look as if they’re from legitimate businesses. Some may be an overpayment for something you sold online, or as “prize” money for a lottery or sweepstakes.
Don’t be fooled, the scammer’s goal is always the same – to convince you to deposit the fraudulent check and then send real money back to the scammer.
What you can do
- Is the check for more than you expected?
- Did you receive specific instructions on how to deposit the check?
- Are you asked to send money back using an immediate form of payment such as, a money order, wire transfer, a payment app, or mobile payment?
- Are you pressured to act quickly to make the deposit and return the money? Are you being threatened with law enforcement action?
- Does the person who sent the check badger you to send the money?
- If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, don’t deposit the check.
It can take weeks for a bank to confirm a bad check after it’s deposited. You may be out the amount of the check plus any money sent to the scammer. If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there’s often little that can be done to help get your money back.
Tech Support Scams
Beware of any call or pop-up messages on your computer warning of an issue, such as a virus or malware. The caller or pop-up claims to be from tech support and asks for access to your computer to fix the issue. The scammer will ask you to type a specific command to enable this access. Once they have control of your computer, they may require payment for technical assistance, install malicious software, and change settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
What you can do
- Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.
- If you get an unexpected call from someone who claims to be tech support, hang up. It’s not a real call.
- Don’t rely on caller ID. Scammers can spoof the name of a company to make the call seem legitimate.
- If you get a pop-up message warning you about a computer problem or telling you to call tech support, ignore it.
- If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly using the number on the company’s website.
Buying or Refinancing Your Home Scams
If you are buying or refinancing a home, be on the lookout for phishing emails with fraudulent instructions for closing costs.
These scams target customers in the process of closing on a home or refinancing. Scammers are often successful because they gain access to legitimate email accounts in order to impersonate realtors, escrow officers, attorneys, or lenders.
With the closing details, scammers can write an email that looks very authentic. This phishing email provides false wiring instructions, directing the money to be transferred to a different account that is controlled by the scammer.
These emails often include an urgent request to send the money immediately or the deal will fall through or the closing date will be postponed. The email may even appear to carbon copy (CC) others involved in the transaction; however those email addresses are altered.
What you can do
- Don’t be rushed.Know what to expect as part of the closing process. Although closing dates may change, there is typically not a last-minute requirement that you send the money to avoid a change in date or risk losing the property.
- Confirm the intended recipient.Be suspicious of any communication stating your wiring instructions have changed. Before wiring funds, confirm instructions with your mortgage consultant or title representative by calling a phone number you trust.
- If you wired money through your bank, request a wire recall immediately. Wire transfers are typically irreversible, so you may not be able to get your money back.
- If you used a money transfer service, call the company’s complaint line immediately.
- Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and provide the incident details.
Tax Fraud Scams
Imposter scams that lead to tax fraud and identity theft typically increase during tax season and times of crisis such as the economic impacts of the COVID-19.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states that phishing schemes are a continuing problem. “Phishing is an attempt to obtain a payment or sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and account details by scammers impersonating a reputable company or government agency through an email, text message, or social media post.” Your information can be used to access your account, apply for benefits or refunds in your name, and steal money.
Be on the lookout for IRS imposter scams that offer assistance with receiving benefits, request payment for overdue taxes, or require you to verify your personal information.
What you should do
- If you receive an unsolicited email or text claiming to be from the IRS, do not reply, click any links, or open attachments. Be cautious of communications that reference “COVID-19” or “stimulus”. They may include promises of assistance, notices of outstanding tax payments due, or requests to verify account information.
- Do not provide passwords, account numbers, or personal information in response to emails, texts, or social media. The IRS does not send texts or emails and will not ask for account information through digital communications. Neither the IRS nor state agencies will text taxpayers asking for account information to make a stimulus payment deposit.
Phone Call Scams
Scammers, posing as the IRS, may call claiming you owe taxes. They demand that you settle the tax bill by sending money through a prepaid debit card, or wire transfer. An imposter may call offering to assist with COVID-related benefits payments and ask you to provide account information in order to receive a payment.
What you should know
- Do not engage in conversation with the caller if demands are made for immediate payment or offers to assist you with receiving a payment.
- Hang up if the caller uses aggressive tactics, such as threatening your arrest.
- Do not provide credit, debit, or bank account numbers
Even if the caller has the last four digits of your Social Security number or other identifiable information, do not share any information.
If you are uncomfortable with a request on a phone call do not respond. Hang up immediately.
The IRS will NEVER
- Ask you to pay your taxes using a gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer.
- Threaten to immediately have you arrested for not paying.
- Initiate contact with you or request sensitive information by email, text, or social media.
Identity Theft Scams
Scammers steal your personal and financial information for illegal or fraudulent activities, like filing a tax return in your name.
One identity theft scam involves criminals stealing client data from tax preparers or from you by obtaining your tax software login information. A fraudulent tax return is filed and the refund is deposited into a bank account.
If you received an erroneous refund, find out how to legally return it.
What you should know
- Use a unique username and password for tax filing software, and update them annually. File taxes early to prevent others from filing a return in your name.
- Do not share your Social Security number with others.
- Shred sensitive documents before discarding.
- Avoid storing personal or account information on your computer or mobile devices.
- Review your credit report every year to confirm that the list of credit accounts is accurate. You can receive a free copy of your report every 12 months.
- Contact your financial institution to close any affected accounts.
- Report identity theft immediately and determine your personalized recovery plan.
- If your Social Security number is stolen, contact the IRS immediately.
Scammers are lurking everywhere, but now you have the information to protect yourself from them and enjoy this holiday scam free!
The Ohio Masonic Home is your go to resource for all things senior living. With three locations in Springfield, Waterville, and Medina, OH, their senior living communities offer 24/7 care and support for independent living, assisted living, and memory care. For more information or to schedule a tour at one of the scenic and beautiful communities. Call (877) 881-1623 today to learn more about their wonderful senior living options.