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How to Protect Yourself Against Scammers

scams Aug 16, 2019

Phone scams and email scams are continually and relentlessly evolving.  The crooks who invent them show no signs of slowing down or a lack of imagination.  Estimates show that millions of people are defrauded every year by contractors, phone calls, emails, and letters to name the most common.  These thieves are clever, combining sophisticated technology with some old tricks to compel their victims to send money or give out personal information.


In some cases, phone and email scams can be avoided when you are aware of the different methods that are being used by crooks or scam artists.  We have listed the “7 Most Common Scams,” along with our own “7 Nevers: 7 Things to Never Do in Order to Avoid Being Scammed.”  We hope that these enlighten and protect you and your loved ones, as knowledge is power.


7 Most Common Scams

1.      False survey:  Once this scam email lands, it directs you to click on a particular link which comes with the mail asking you to click on it to engage in a short survey. Once you click on it, dangerous malware downloads on your gadget, phone, or computer. It is advisable to always be cautious while reading such emails or when clicking on links or attachments from email addresses you are not familiar with or that may be Trojan Horses.


How to avoid the scam:  Don’t give out personal information that you are not comfortable with. And remember, a reputable survey will not ask you for money, bank account information, Social security number, or password to your online accounts.


2.      Free vacation Scam:  A vacation in Ibiza sound nice, but don’t be carried away by scammers who inform you about winning a free vacation to those cities of your dreams. They complicate this more by telling you to pay an administration fee before you can claim your prize. Trust me, if you fall into this trap, what you get is another credit card bill instead of a vacation to your dream city.


How to avoid the scam: Once you get this letter or phone call informing you that you won a contest you did not put in for, don’t proceed any further replying to the mail and if it’s a phone call, hang up and report the incident to the appropriate authorities.


3.      PayPal and online banking:  This comes through an email which is well constructed to make it look just like it’s from your online banking or from PayPal informing you that there has been a security issue and you have to verify your account before it's been closed by the company. Don’t fall for it – the security breach or issue you have at that point is the email itself.


How to avoid this scam:  Don’t reply to the mail, don’t click on the links, and don’t be tempted to download the attached files.  In case you clicked on the link out of curiosity, or you are not sure of the update, all you have to do is log in to your PayPal or online banking account and check your recent activity to be sure everything looks normal typing in the address directly to your browser, never by using their links.


4.      Low-interest loan:  Are you in need of a loan? This scam is popular and could end up costing you more than a high-interest loan. In case you get a mail or a phone call offering you the opportunity of a low-interest loan, make sure you don’t give out any private information until you background research on the company in question.


How to avoid this scam:  A reputable loan service will never say you have been approved for a loan and then inform you of a fee.  Instead, if there is a fee attached, it will be stated clearly before the loan application process begins.


5.      Foreign lottery:  If you receive a phone call or an email informing you about hitting the jackpot, don’t be too excited. The scammers usually ask you to pay a particular fee to claim the rest of the winnings, but the plan is to give you an empty bank account if you eventually fall for it.


How to avoid this scam:  Be informed that no authentic lottery directs the winners to part with their own money before the prize they claimed you already won can be collected.


6.      Utility company:  People get a call from the scammers claiming to be a utility company representative. They proceed by saying you have a pending payment that you did not process properly and instead ask for your credit card information promising to help you resolve the issue.


How to avoid the scam:  Hang up without giving out any vital information and place a call across to the phone number provided on your utility bill.


7.      Credit Card Debt Consolidation:  How does it sound when a stranger offers to pay for your credit card debt?  Sweet, right?  No, it’s not.  Especially if it's a scam.


People with high credit card balances, not always balances, receive calls from scammers claiming to help you settle your debt.  What they are looking for is access to your bank account and other vital information.


How to avoid the scam:  Your credit card information is personal and shouldn’t be shared with a third party. Once a scammer has the necessary information, they take control of your account and charge it for payments or sell it to another scammer.  Hang up or tear up the letter.


The 7 Nevers: 7 Things to Never Do in Order to Avoid Being Scammed


Never click on a link in an email.  Go directly to your browser and type in the supposed URL address yourself.  For instance, if an email supposedly is from Paypal and says your account has been breached, type in Paypal’s address in your browser WITHOUT clicking any links.  Luckily, I use iCloud and disabling links is a feature I use automatically.  If ever I accidentally click on anything that was a link, an alert pops up asking me if I trust the email.  That answer is always “no.”  Even if it’s from a trusted institution, I will type it in and go there myself.  I will never use a link in my emails.


Never trust that you have won a sweepstake.  Free weekends, free cruises, free groceries: we all know that nothing is free.  If someone calls you and excitedly tells you that you have won a drawing, I immediately tell them to add me to their “Do Not Call” list and hang up.  Publisher’s Clearing House will show up in a van with cameras and balloons if I really do win and these calls, postcards, and emails are scams.  Don’t fall for them.


Never Pay to Win (usually goes with the above scam).  If someone calls you informing you of something you won but tells you that you’ll have to pay a “small” fee for any reason (administration costs, taxes, or shipping and handling cost), it’s a scam.  You’ll never get the prize you won and you just gave them your credit card information so who knows what charges you’ll see on your account.  You never have to pay to win.  It’s like paying taxes before you earn a salary.


Never trust any phone calls you get from the IRS.  Just know that the IRS will not call you so these - usually automated - phone calls are always a scam.  The IRS will send you letters, not call you.  


Never trust phone calls about late utility bills asking for payment over the phone.  If your electric company calls you and says you are late or your bill wasn’t received, go get a recent copy of your bill, do NOT use any number or contact they give you, and call ONLY the number that is printed ON YOUR BILL.  Chances are, phone calls are frauds fishing for your money.


Never trust checks you receive in the mail.  These checks often come with a letter asking you to purchase something, send pictures, and keep the balance of the check for yourself.  Last year, I received two of these same types of letters just before Christmas.  Each letter asked me to use the enclosed check for $2500 to purchase 4 (four) $500 iTunes gift cards and explained that I was to be a “secret shopper,” talk about my purchase experience, send pictures of the front and back of each gift card, then cash the check and keep the rest of the money for my trouble.  Right.  What company sends $2500 checks to complete strangers?  You would have to be an idiot.  That check, however real it may look, is eventually going to come back and bounce, bounce, bounce itself right out of your checking account.  Do not fall for this scam.


Never give any personal information to anyone over the phone.  Especially if someone has called you.  Caller ID is easily faked now and you have no idea who you are talking to on the other end of that line.  Don’t fall for it.  If you’re applying for a mortgage and someone calls you asking for such information, again, look up the phone numbers you have for that institution yourself on documents that you have received.  Then, use the information that you have to call back and verify the need for the information requested.  You can absolutely write down a reference number, but never use the phone numbers or websites given to you by the person requesting the information.


While we could write an entire book on the number of scams out there, we hope the ones we used here hit the highlights of how to protect yourself and your loved ones against Scammers.  


We also want to stress that the majority of people have fallen for at least one scam once in their life, myself included.  Don't be embarrassed.  Call a trusted friend or loved one if you ever have any doubt about the validity of any phone call, card, email, or letter.  Better safe than sorry.


If you know of a scam that we missed, please go to our Facebook page and post it in the comments under this article in order to help others avoid it, too.   We hope you haven't fallen victim to any, but if you have, sharing your story may protect someone else from falling into the same trap.  Thank you, in advance, for sharing.





Michelle R Russell

© The Prosperity Process, LLC  

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