Technology is great, our friends and families are just a button away, more information than we could ever want is at our fingertips, and those that live far always feel close.
But as with all things, we must take the good with the bad and one bad side of technology is that scammers are now able to easily penetrate our defenses. Even the top of line anti-spam software and apps cannot stop the inundation of scam emails, phone calls, and texts.
I call this the Golden Age of Scamming. Before all this wonderful technology debuted, scammers would go door to door or call on the landline telephone making it much more difficult to find a victim. Now, not only are victims easy to reach, but getting the cell numbers and emails of victims is easy as well. A criminal can send a scam email or text to thousands of potential victims with just the push of a button.
Everyday thousands of people of all ages are victims of scammers, but our elderly community is an especially vulnerable group. Although many are technologically sufficient. For example, my parents, well into their 70’s, are quite able to use the popular apps to stay in contact with their children and grandchildren. The issue lies with the sophisticated methods now employed by scammers around the world. Often making scams look legitimate.
Here are some of the scams popular today:
■ A prompt from Microsoft, McAfee, or some other reputable tech company will pop up on your computer screen indicating there is an issue with your bank account and to call a number. That number leads to a scammer that will then walk the victim through a refund, overpayment, or some other issue that results in the scammer taking control of the victim’s computer and bank accounts through back door means.
■ Same type of situation as mentioned above but the prompt comes through text message or email. It will be a reputable company such as Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon, or some other perceived legitimate source.
The reason this works so well is because the victim thinks they initiated the interaction by calling the number in the message.
Which they didn’t, the prompt initiated the contact.
Other scams include:
■ Law Enforcement calling to inform you that a loved one has been arrested or there is a warrant out for your arrest and if you don’t pay money the charges will move forward.
■ IRS or Other Government Agency reporting an issue to you and requesting payment to halt proceedings. We all know the Government doesn’t work that fast.
■ A threatening letter or email claiming you owe a debt you don’t recall. Don’t doubt your memory, it probably doesn’t exist.
■ Do not click links in emails or texts that you did not initiate.
■ Do not allow anyone to take control of your computer remotely.
■ Do not give out personal information in response to emails, texts, or phone calls you receive.
■ No legitimate company wants payment in gift cards.
■ Hang up if they want some sort of payment (processing fee, postage, etc.) before awarding you your refund, prize, or debt relief.
■ Do not pay any entity that insists on getting the money right away.
■ Look for small mistakes in grammar and spelling, fonts and font sizes that don’t stay consistent and crazy looking return email addresses. These are red flags you are dealing with a scammer.
No one is 100% safe online, that is the risk we all take for the convenience of using the Internet but using the above methods you can improve your chances of catching a scammer before they do any damage.