BoomerTECH Adventures: Protect Yourself From Scammers

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FedEx Notification: Your package has been picked up by a courier. Call this number to avoid additional charges.
Apple is giving away 50 FREE Apple iPads this morning …
Your iCloud account has been hacked. Go to this site …
There is a problem with your social security account. He may have been compromised …

All of these messages arrived via text message, email or landline. All of them are scams! But they seem so reasonable, you might be thinking. This is why these crooks are successful; the message seems plausible. Often times, they threaten legal action, which can be a bit annoying. Scammers try to get you to send money or reveal personal information that can be sold or used in identity theft.

Why are scams on the rise at such a rapid rate? The answer is simple: they are very profitable for the crooks. More than $ 20 billion was diverted from unsuspecting Americans in 2020. This is an increase from 8.6 billion in 2014. Many scams are perpetrated by phone, email, text messaging apps and social media .

They are successful because they are highly skilled in the art of persuasion or even intimidation. Also, they mask their efforts by appearing to be from a legitimate business or organization – Netflix, eBay, Norton, Yahoo, IRS, Post Office, etc.

Here are some examples of current scams:

I received a text message saying my Netflix account was going to be canceled due to a problem with my credit card. At first, I was surprised to ask myself questions about my credit card account. I immediately opened Netflix on my iPad – no problem. Then I checked my Netflix account on their website – no problem. Obviously this SMS was a scam so I quickly deleted the message.

Another scam attempt happened to a friend. This time, a phone call informed her that it was time to renew her Norton account. Norton’s is a trusted and respected company specializing in antivirus protection for digital devices. Therefore, the call seemed very legitimate, except… she didn’t have an account with them. The man on the phone insisted she had and kept trying to persuade her to give him her credit card information until she hung up on him.

Online dating is another lucrative platform for scammers. They often use reputable online dating sites and are very tricky as they build trust with a target. The scammer will express an interest in the same hobbies or activities. They are friendly and charming.

Attacking a target’s desire for companionship and solitude, they create a feeling of closeness. Then, they might mention in passing some financial difficulties they encounter in the hope that the target will offer to send them money.

Often times, they will lobby for money directly, citing a family emergency or a desire to achieve the goal. Any mention of money is an immediate red flag and participants should opt out of the online connection.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have gotten so invested in this online relationship that they put their common sense aside and send money.

Even if you are not involved in online dating, it is important to understand this type of scam. You may have family members or friends who are vulnerable because they feel lonely. They need you to be the voice of reason.

Another profitable scam is online shopping. If you are a Facebook user, flashy posts appear in your news feed every day to sell a product that reflects your interests. Remember, social media sites make money selling data about their users’ online behaviors to merchants. That’s why if you click on a cute puppy video, you start to see items selling dog products.

Before you buy something online from a company you’ve never heard of, do some research. Go to their website and check it out. But this step is not enough because fraudulent companies can easily set up a fancy site for very little money. Check the reviews! Just search for the company name and the word “notice” and the information will appear. You need to be able to determine whether the business is reputable or not. You can also view them at the Better Business Bureau.

Nowadays all kinds of money calls are made online. After every disaster, sites appear to tell people how they can help. Many people are generous when others are in need, and the money comes in often. Unfortunately, sometimes contributions do not reach an agency helping in a disaster area or a research center working on a deadly disease.

Again, do your research before entering your credit card number. Google the charity, research reviews, and see if you can find out how much of your contribution goes directly to the relief effort or the research center. Some organizations take a large portion of donations for administrative costs.

Check how charities meet donation standards at the Better Business Bureau, and there is a website called Charity Navigator that will give you relevant information.

Similar to charity scams, there are other types of scams that want to relieve you of your hard earned money. Often times, they come in the guise of retirement advice, high-yielding investments, debt relief, and lottery wins. Red flags indicating that a site is a scam include requests for bank account numbers and prepaid money. Reputable companies do not make such requests.

So… again, you must be a skeptic and a seeker. Check with your local consumer protection agency, search for business reviews online, and call your state attorney’s office to see if there are any complaints.

Phishing Expeditions: These scams demonstrate a high level of technical skills. Phishing is the process of sending fraudulent emails from reputable companies looking for passwords and credit card numbers.

Let me share a personal story that still embarrasses me ten years later. I opened my Yahoo email warning me of a security issue. Everything in the email seemed legitimate: the graphics, the information they had, etc. The message asked for my password so they could fix the security issue. I used all the technical skills I had to verify the veracity of the email and found no issues. Yet even as I typed my password into the response, the little voice deep in my head was saying, “Don’t do that!” I ignored it and clicked send. Not five minutes later, I started getting emails asking if I was really in London, sick and starving. It was a great example of a phishing shipment.

Never, ever give anyone a password, credit card number, or bank account number over email, even if it looks legitimate.

The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from these criminals!

Be skeptical and beware of any unsolicited messages you receive from any business, organization, government agency, or person. Remember, the IRS and other government agencies never communicate by email or text.

Immediately delete any suspicious communication and slam the phone on robocalls.

Any request for money is a wake-up call, even from relatives. Their accounts may have been hacked. Recheck!

Go online and look for specific scams. I once received an email stating that my trial had been delayed. I have not been involved in any legal proceedings and when I Google “scam + courts” I found many references to scams.

Create your own social security account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. This way you can check any activity with your SS account.

Become the grammar police. Grammar, spelling, and syntax errors in the message or URL window are a huge clue that you are not dealing with a legitimate site.

Talk about scams with friends and relatives who aren’t as tech savvy as you are. Point out any clues they need to be on the lookout for.

The number of Internet scams is disturbing. One could easily become paranoid every time a call or text comes in or an email pops up. However, the key to living safe and healthy in our high-tech world is to appeal to your inner skeptic and practice your internet research skills. But we do know that some of our friends and family may not be as tech savvy as we are, so it makes sense to have regular conversations about scams and scams on the internet.

Share stories to alert family and friends of possible scams. “You won’t believe what happened as an email message today! He wanted me to call a number to postpone my trial. Well, I’m not involved in any court case so I searched Google for a court scam, and voila, it’s a scam. Hopefully, these types of stories will alert our loved ones to possible nefarious ploys that may well target them.

BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert advice and resources to help baby boomers and seniors build skills and confidence using their Apple devices. The baby boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures guides Jill Spencer, Ed Brazee and Chris Toy draw on their experiences as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, timely technical advice, online courses and blog posts.

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