Dealing with scammers has always been like a game of whack-a-mole. As soon as you delete that email, another one lands in your inbox. It should come as no surprise that scammers have been working overtime during the pandemic, coming up with schemes to part you from your money and information. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that consumers have been bilked out of nearly $75 million this year. Don’t become a victim! Educate yourself.
Here are just a few of the scams that I have dealt with during the past few months.
Did you make this purchase on Amazon?
The email looked legitimate, with the Amazon logo at the top. It asked whether I had purchased the items listed, mostly electronic equipment. The total was eye-popping! More than $5,000! That certainly got my attention. But I wasn’t convinced. The first thing I did was sign onto my Amazon account to check my most recent purchases. That $5,000 one was not listed. I also checked the credit card connected to my account. No charge. Scrutinizing the email more closely, it didn’t pass inspection. Rather than my name at the top, it had a generic greeting. The email address and the phone number it asked me to call, were suspect. I assume if I called that number, they would ask me for information – credit card, address, maybe my Social Security number. I deleted the email and notified Amazon.
We were unable to make your delivery.
I’ve received this email several times. There’s no information given about the package I’m supposedly expecting, where it was meant to be delivered, and whether the delivery was through the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, or FedEx. I know that when I am expecting a delivery, the email will come from the company or website I ordered from. And often there will be a tracking number. This bogus email asked me to click on a link to give more information. I deleted the email.
Your credit card account has been suspended.
I received this in a text about my MasterCard account. They text gave a number for me to call so that I could give them the information needed to restart my account. I searched for the phone number on Google and it came up as a scam number. Just as a safeguard, I went on my MasterCard account and it had not been suspended. I deleted the text.
“I need to get money to my – take your pick – sick grandmother, ailing neighbor, or son stranded in a foreign country. I need a good hearted person to send gift cards.”
This one seems so obviously bogus that I feel sad that many well-meaning people take it seriously and do send those gift cards. Putting aside that reaching out to a total stranger in this situation is suspicious enough, but asking for gift cards should be the tip off that this is a scam. I get perhaps one of these a month, never answer them, and delete them.
“I know you visit porn sites…”
Yes, millions of people do visit porn sites, so perhaps panic when the person behind this email claims to have a video and will release it to everyone in your address book unless you pay a huge sum, if not in gift cards, then in bitcoin. This is extortion, although even if you report it to the police, chances are the perpetrator is in a foreign country and could never be caught. Delete it.
Some of these schemes may be familiar to you and you may have others. Unfortunately, even if you think you will never fall for one of these scams, don’t let down your guard. The scammers work overtime to come up with new ways to part you from your money and information. Here are some other tips:
Don’t panic. No matter what the email or text claims, avoid acting hastily. Being told that someone has charged an exorbitant amount to your account is meant to shock you into action. Hold back! Question everything and do your due diligence.Trust your gut. It is feels false, it probably is.
The IRS doesn’t make phone calls. A common scam is having someone purporting to be an IRS agent call and threaten to arrest you unless you pay a certain sum. This is from the IRS website: “The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Recognize the telltale signs of a scam. See also: How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.”
Check caller ID. Question phone calls that come from numbers without an ID. Once you know the call is a scam one, block the number, whether on your landline or cellphone.
Don’t be quick to click on a link. The worst thing that can happen is that your site may be taken over by a bot and in order to get up and running again, you will have to pay a ransom.
Pick secure passwords and change them frequently. Yes, I know it’s a pain to change passwords, but doing so will help you safeguard your information. Select passwords that are not connected to you. No birthdays, anniversaries, or kids’ names.
Be careful what you share on social media. Giving away too much information can be used to steal your identity.
Don’t be embarrassed if you are scammed. It happens to the best of us. Report it, speak out, warn others. And next time, be smart.
Top photo: Bigstock