BOO! It’s Halloween and the Scammers and Fraudsters Are Out.

Of course, the scammers and fraudsters are out every night.  It pays to be careful so you don’t end up as one of their victims.  Scammers are always refining their scams so you may see new tricks.  Here are some of the things you can do to protect yourself.

Beware of Scammers - Washington County Sheriff's Office

If you didn’t initiate a conversation on line or on the phone, assume that the “person” on the other end is a scammer and act accordingly.

No matter how attractive you may think you are, handsome men and beautiful women are not sitting at their computers just waiting to fall in love with you.  At some point they are going to need money for a medical emergency or are going to ask for an intimate picture of you.  They may have already sent you an intimate picture of the person they claim to be.  These people are scammers.  There is no medical emergency.  Intimate pictures may be used for blackmail.

Never give private information out in response to a request that you did not initiate.  Scammers can make texts you receive or emails you receive or phone calls you receive appear to come from legitimate sources.  Just because the caller ID says that the IRS is calling does not mean it is the IRS on the line.  In fact, the IRS says that they never contact taxpayers by phone so if the IRS pops up on your caller ID, it is almost certainly a scammer calling to warn you that your bank account is about to be seized unless you immediately send someone some money.

If you want to respond to an inquiry you did not initiate, DO NOT use the phone number or link provided to you by the person contacting you.  Scammers have set up web sites that look exactly like that of your bank or credit card company.  The person answering your return call to the number they give you will pretend to be the business you were trying to call.  ALWAYS look up the phone number or web address yourself using a trusted source and follow up that way.

NEVER EVER give personal information over the phone or on line, if you did not initiate the contact.

Another good piece of advice I saw recently pointed out that scammers want to make you afraid as that may cause you to lower your defenses.  The advice was that, if you get a message that makes your hands moist and clammy, assume the message, no matter what it is or who it claims to be from, is from a scammer.

On your cell phone, send all unknown callers to voice mail.  There is a button for that.  Do not respond to text messages that appear to be intended for someone else or have otherwise been mistakenly sent to you.  Such messages are often just a way for the scammer to confirm that your number is a live number or to engage you in a conversation or both.

Sometimes scammers prey on older people by calling and pretending to be a young relative who is in a jam or in jail and needs some money fast.  “Gramma, it’s me, your favorite grandson.  Please help me, Gramma.”

Some scammers call or email at night or on the weekend and pretend to be your boss who needs you to send some money immediately to resolve some emergency.  Verify before sending any money to anyone for any reason.

You may receive an email from a friend who is out-of-the-country and has had his or her wallet stolen.  They are embarrassed to ask but need you to send them some money so they can get home.  Don’t do it.  You will usually find that the scammer somehow compromised the address book of your friend and sent identical emails to everyone in it.

Even if you are not asked for financial information, be wary of giving any information.  Scammers can sell medical information or other identification information.  “Hi, this is Doctor (mumbles) office calling.  We are updating our records and just want to confirm your Medicare number.  Will you please read it to me?”  Give that and you may find that someone has used your number in a fraud against Medicare.

You may read this and think it can’t happen to me.  It can and does happen to sophisticated people.  All it takes is one little slip and you can become a victim.  Be alert and be careful, not just on Halloween night, but every day and very night.


Posted in Fraud, Medicare |