25 October 2022

Scams have been around since Delilah took Samson to get a trim.

Con artists (the term comes from those who would invoke your confidence in their manipulation of the facts and because their work involves a degree of skill) use various tactics like the offer of easy money, friendly help, or fear. The ultimate goal is to separate you from your cash or other valuables. Sometimes it is accomplished by simply extracting information that will lead them to the treasure.

Sadly some people are more vulnerable than others. That includes individuals with less real world experience (like children and adolescents), those with cognitive disabilities (like some older adults), and those who simply want to be good people and contribute to a charity.

  • Items for purchase are offered for a considerably lower price. Don’t transfer money to someone you don’t know. Either the items don’t exist or you will be buying stolen goods.
  • You have placed your house on the market for sale but a scammer has his or her own website that lists your property as a rental. You suddenly start receiving phone inquiries about rental deposit checks. These checks were actually sent to the scammer and you are left in the middle of a mess.
  • You are getting ready to close on the purchase of a piece of property and you receive an URGENT email about a change in wiring the closing money. Speak directly with your realtor or with the title company handling the close of the sale.
  • You have placed an item for sale and you receive a check for more than the stated amount. First, that check is probably bad. In addition, you are instructed to deposit the check and simply return the overage as a gift card or wire. In reality you have lost all of the money because the check was insufficient funds, the “overpayment” that you returned, and the item for sale.
  • You receive an email notification that your student aid is at risk and you are asked to provide security information. Before complying, contact your aid source personally to be sure they sent it.
  • Similarly, there is a phone call that can help you reduce or eliminate debt that asks for a payment to set up your account or establish a contract.
  • We’ve all received notice that there is malware on your computer.
  • A phone call from a governmental agency (IRS or Social Security) about some irregularity. These folks don’t call. They send official notification letters.
  • A phone call from something that sounds like a legitimate charity asking you to donate in some way that will benefit kids, like a police fund to send kids to a performance of some sort.

Basically you should be on the look out for red flags.

  • You are pressured to act quickly or urgently.
  • Threats with law enforcement or governmental actions.
  • Last minute changes in a financial transaction.
  • Send back some money (or provide a “deposit”) so that you will receive some type of financial reward.

If you question anything, don’t respond to the request. Don’t trust caller ID or phone numbers that you don’t recognize. Even if it looks legitimate, if the person on the other end seems suspicious, hang up. Never give out identifiable information over the phone. Double check information from verifiable websites or consult with a financial adviser or family member.

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