Don’t give away your money to scammers ever again

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When I say “give away” that’s just what I mean. Scammers are so sophisticated these days they get you to hand over your log-ins and passwords, and in some scams, you actually send them the money only to find out it was a scam afterwards. The sad fact is the responsibility is on us consumers to protect ourselves from scammers. People joke about “The Nigerian Prince” email scam, but if identity scams and financial scams of all types were not so profitable, they would not be so pervasive.

Watch out for the top 4 financial and identity scams circulating right now.

  1. IRS tax phone scam. All sorts of tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2014. According to the IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scam list, phone scammers impersonate an IRS officer demanding money that you owe the IRS. Some calls even threaten arrest and are completed with fake follow-up fake calls from the local police department. No matter what the threat or if they say you are owed a refund be aware that the IRS only contacts taxpayers by mail and never by phone, so just hang up.
  2. Email phishing scam. This scam results from an unsolicited email you receive that is faked to look like it is from a company you do business with, such as your bank. The email may say it is updating your account or your password is outdated and to click a link provided in the email. Once you click that link, you are taken a fake website to fill in your account number, password, social security number, driver’s license number, birthdate and all types of identifying information that makes it possible for scammers to open up fraudulent accounts in your name. The FTC and the FBI both urge consumers never to click on links from emails about your accounts. To check the legitimacy of an email request, log-on to your accounts via the company website yourself or call the company directly.
  3. Free Wi-Fi scam. Whenever you are using public Wi-Fi at a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop, airport or hotel, whatever you type in (log-ins, passwords, account numbers, credit card numbers) is not secure. Scammers are lurking nearby to trace and record your keystrokes so do not log-in to your financial accounts or input credit card numbers to shop online while using unsecured WiFi. Ditto for updating your software, even if prompted, while on an unsecured Wi-Fi.
  4. Good old check deposit scam. Has someone ever contacted you via email and offered to send you a check for items you may have for sale on craigslist or for a job? When you reply, the emailer then describes how he or she will send you more money than you are owed along with instructions to deposit the check in your account and wire transfer the difference back to them or others within 24 hours. By the time the original check bounces and you have already wired them the money and the perpetrator is untraceable. Whenever depositing a check from an unknown person, always wait the full time it takes the check to clear in your account (4-5) days before withdrawing any money, even though the bank may release funds the next day.

Of course you have no control over point-of-sale skimming scams at ATMs, cash registers and gas pumps or data breaches, like the most recent ones at Sony, Home Depot, Target and JP Morgan Chase. Fraudsters hack company databases and steal account numbers, pin numbers and sometimes only customer email addresses and log-ins, all of which can be used to hack your accounts and steal your money and your identity. In fact, according to the Javelin 2014 Identity Fraud Report, one in three people who received a data breach letter became a victim of identity fraud in 2013. This is up from one in four in 2012 and one in five in 2011 showing a marked increase in this type of identity fraud.

What can you do about it? Check your credit report for suspicious activity for free at one credit bureau every four months at annualcreditreport.com and check your credit score for suspicious increases or decreases via one of the free services we wrote about earlier this month in, “Where to get your credit score.”

Make a conscious effort to be more aware of scams so you never hand over your money or your personal information to fraudsters again.

Posted in Finance
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