Although it’s still snowing here at 8,000’ in the Rocky Mountains, spring is just around the corner for most of the country. And every year it seems that just as the bears come out of hibernation, so do the fraud artists who try to steal your identity and money.
So I thought this would be a good time to look at some of the scams that could plague Americans this year. And while most of you would never fall for these scams, there are many people who do. So please share this information with your friends and family.
As goofy as some of these may seem to well-informed members of the Self-Reliance Institute, the reality is that millions of Americans fall for these schemes. That’s why we all need to spread the word and help those we love and care about avoid falling prey to these parasites who seek to steal our hard-earned money.
Oh, before I forget, here’s the link to this month’s newsletter that contains all of the advisories from February. Just click –> HERE to open and/or download the newsletter.
OK. Let’s get back to the top scams. I’ve pulled these from a number of resources, including the Council of Better Business Bureaus who originally published some of these at MarketWatch. I cut their list down to the ones I believe are most prevalent.
1 – Medical Alert Scam: “With promises of a “free” medical alert system, the scam targeted seniors and caretakers and claimed to be offering the system free of charge because a family member or friend had already paid for it. In many cases, seniors were asked to provide their bank account or credit information to “verify” their identity and, as a result, were charged the monthly $35 service fee. The system, of course, never arrived and the seniors were left with a charge they had trouble getting refunded.”
2 – Auction Reseller Scam: “Many people turn to eBay and other online auction sites to sell used items they no longer need, and relatively new electronics seem to do especially well. But scammers have figured out a way to fool sellers into shipping goods without receiving payment. Usually the buyer claims it’s an “emergency” of some sort — a child’s birthday, a member of the military shipping out — and asks the seller to ship the same day. The seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming the payment, but emails are easy to fake. Always confirm payment in your eBay and PayPal accounts before shipping, especially to an overseas address.” (I see people fall for this all the time!)
3 – Arrest Warrant Scam: “In this scam, con artists are taking advantage of technology that can change what is visible on Caller ID, and allowing them to pose as the office of the local sheriff or other law enforcement agency. They call to say there is a warrant out for your arrest, but that you can pay a fine to avoid criminal charges. Of course, these “police” don’t take credit cards; only a wire transfer or prepaid debit card will do. Sometimes these scams seem very personal; the scammer may refer to a loan or other financial matter. It may just be a lucky guess, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are about to be arrested.”
4 – Home Improvement Scams: “Home improvement scams vary little from year to year, and most involve some type of shoddy workmanship from unlicensed or untrained workers. The hardest for homeowners to detect, and therefore the easiest for scammers to pull off, are repairs or improvements to the areas of your home that you can’t see: roofs, chimneys, air ducts, crawl spaces, etc. Scammers may simply knock at your door offering a great deal because they were “in the neighborhood,” but more and more they are using telemarketing, email and even social media to reach homeowners. Helpful videos on YouTube can add legitimacy to a contractor, but consumers have no way of knowing if the video is real or “borrowed” from a legitimate contractor. Check out home contractors before saying yes.” (It breaks my heart that our elderly population falls for this all the time!)
5 – Foreign Currency Scam: “Investments in foreign currency can sound like a great idea, and scammers frequently use real current events and news stories to make their pitches even more appealing. They advertise an easy investment with high return and low risk when you purchase Iraqi dinar, Vietnamese dong or, most recently, the Egyptian pound. The plan is that, when those governments revalue their currencies, increasing their worth against the dollar, you just sell and cash in. Unlike previous hoaxes, you may even take possession of real currency. The problem is that they will be very difficult to sell, and it’s extremely unlikely they will ever significantly increase in value.” (Watch for this to happen because of what’s taking place between Russia and Ukraine!!)
6 – Smishing: (Say what?) “With online and mobile banking skyrocketing, it isn’t a surprise that scams quickly follow. One major tactic recently is the use of scam texts, known as “smishing,” to steal personal information. They look like a text alert from your bank, asking you to confirm information or “reactivate your debit card” by following a link on your smartphone. Banks of all sizes have been targeted, and details of the scam vary, but the outcome is the same: scammers get your banking information, maybe even your ATM number and PIN. You may even inadvertently download malicious software that gives the scammer access to anything on your phone.” (Relatively new scam, but it will grow!)
7 – Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) Scam: “Scammers had a field day with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, using it as a way to fool Americans into sharing their personal information. Scammers would call claiming to be from the federal government and saying the would-be victim needed a new insurance card or Medicare card. However, before they can mail the card, they need to collect personal information. Scammers do a lot to make their requests seem credible. For example, they may have your bank’s routing number and ask you to provide your account number. Or, they may ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information. But sharing personal information with a scammer puts you at risk for identity theft.” (One of the biggest scams in recent months and it will grow!)
OK. These are some of the biggest scams underway this spring. In coming weeks, I’ll dig deeper into identity theft scams and specific tactics you can use to prevent identity theft and resulting financial fraud.
Be sure to share these with your friends and family. And pay close attention to your elderly loved ones as they are prime targets for these scams. My Mom got targeted during her senior years and, more than once, I stopped a criminal in his tracks as he was trying to steal from my Mom.
By being aware of the types of scams that are making the rounds – and understanding the psychology that makes them work – we can assist our loved ones in avoiding financial tragedy.
Have you noticed any new scams?
Have any of your friends or loved ones been victimized by a fraudster?
I’d love to hear your story. Email me at [email protected]
As always, be safe and secure!