Just because we are all high tech these days, doesn’t mean the old fashioned phone scams have gone away. Below is a list of the top ones that still happen on a regular basis, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
1. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not call you unsuspectingly and ask you for private information or tell you to send money somewhere because you owe them taxes. Don’t fall for it. If the IRS has a legitimate concern with your taxes, they will initiate contact with a letter via the regular mail.
2. No matter how sophisticated our software is these days, there is no way that Microsoft or any other technical support will know out of the blue that you have malware on your computer and will voluntarily call you to help you fix it. There are scammers out there that will call you claiming to be technical support in an effort to convince you to pay them a fee to “fix” your computer. While there is probably a good chance you may have some issue with your computer, these people are trying to scam you. If you have a technical issue, you should be the one to initiate a call to support.
3. We would all love to have “free money” spontaneously show up at our door. However, if you didn’t sign up for a sweepstakes, don’t let someone convince you over the phone that if you send a processing fee to them, you will be able to collect your valuable prize. Never send money to collect a prize.
4. Even the FBI is exploited in phone scams. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from there and asking you to send money to help a Prince or Princess in Distress, don’t do it. Cinderella is a fairy tale as is this line. This is just not ever going to legitimately happen. If you have a real FBI agent calling you on the phone, you may have more urgent issues with which to focus your attention.
5. Caller ID can be spoofed and sometimes scammers will do just this to try and trick you into sending money. It can look like the caller is from a legitimate organization, perhaps your bank, or even your mom hoping you will pick up the phone so they can convince you to send money. Just because the caller ID claims the number is one you may know, it isn’t necessarily the case. If the caller sounds suspicious, trust your instincts and hang up. You can always call back with a number you already have to verify the call.
6. Immigrants have been in the current events news a lot recently and this just makes the likelihood of scammers taking advantage of that rise. Sometimes they will pose as an official from Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threatening deportation of someone in your home unless you provide private information that can be used against you or for a fee. The government doesn’t operate this way, so hang up.
7. The federal government also will not randomly call you claiming you won a government grant for some large sum of money. Even more shocking is that you didn’t even apply for one. So if you get a call like this asking for fees in exchange for your grant, it is fake, even if you did apply for a government grant. Hang up. Generally, with any official agency, you will receive notification by mail first.
8. Healthcare and medical related scams are on the rise and phone scammers may be calling you to get in on that action. Sometimes they claim to be from Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). They may threaten to suspend healthcare benefits if you don’t fork over fees or personal information. Again, this is not how these agencies will work with you, so if you get such a call, and especially if you feel like you are being threatened by the caller, hang up.
9. Finally, there is the scareware tactic where a link results in a popup that has a phone number for you to call. The dialogue claims that you are locked out of your files, the FBI has determined your are doing something illegal and has locked up your computer, or some other ruse. There is a number to call and the person on the other end may try to scare you into sending money in some form, often by sending a prepaid card somewhere in exchange for a code to unlock your files.
Back up your files regularly either to the cloud or to an external drive. Depending on the size of the files you want to back up, you may even be able to put them on a USB stick. In any case, don’t ever pay any type of ransom. Most of the time, this “code” is never sent and you have lost your files and your money. If you have a recent backup, you can restore those more easily.
If you believe you have been scammed in one of these ways, you should file a report with your local law enforcement agency as well as with the FTC using their FTC Complaint Assistant.
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