So, let me tell you a story. A teenager makes a phone call to his grandmother and says “Grandma, this is Johnny, I’ve gotten into trouble. Me and one of my friends went to Mexico for the weekend and got in a car accident. My friend had some marijuana on him and we both got arrested. I need money for bail. Please don’t tell mom and dad because they don’t know I’m gone.”
Frightening words, right? What would you do? We all want to help our family as much as we can and would do anything to get them out of a bind. You see, as this story unfolds, Grandma wires money to a person who calls later and says they need more money for the court costs. When Grandma gets suspicious and calls her daughter to ask about Lil’ Johnny only to find out Lil’ Johnny is at work. After all is said and done, Grandma could be out a thousand or more dollars because of this scam.
Scams have become a way of life. We are bombarded with scams over the phone, email, texts and even the mail. We find them on auction sites, trading sites and for sale by owner sites. We all love the “too good to be true deal.” I know a percentage of our population grew up in a different time; a time we didn’t say “no” to our neighbors or friends. We offered help wherever we could. Times have changed. The scammers who call us are not our friends. These scammers could care less what happens to you when you lose your hard-earned money.
I want to share some scams with you. The best advice I can give is “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Here are a few to watch for:
IRS Scam – Someone posing as an IRS agent calls and says you owe money to the IRS. If you don’t pay, a warrant will be issued and you will be taken to jail. Folks, our government can’t and doesn’t work this way. Firstly, you will receive a letter from the IRS if you owe money, not a phone call. After a few correspondences with the IRS, they will work out a payment plan or something similar. The first phone call you have with the real IRS will not include a conversation about you going to jail. HANG UP immediately.
Warrant Scam – Someone posing as a police officer calls and says you have a warrant but if you take care of this over the phone, you won’t be arrested. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a police officer will not call you and tell you there is a warrant for your arrest. Your first notification will generally be a knock on the door. HANG UP immediately.
You’ve won the Nigerian Lottery – An email comes to you notifying you of a winning lottery number in a foreign country. If you pay so much money the taxes will be covered and you can claim your winnings! Did you play the lottery in another country? It does not seem like a very good deal if you have to pay for something you “won.” DELETE and empty your recycle bin.
Mystery Shopper Scam – You receive a check in the mail with instructions to deposit the check, keep a certain dollar amount and send the rest back to the company. Your instructions are to shop at a particular store and fill out some paperwork as to your experience in the store and mail everything back to your “employer” along with the extra cash. The problem is, the check is a fake and you have to cover the money. Several scams are designed this way, meaning, you cash a check and send money to someone else, work from home, etc…. SHRED!
The greatest of scams comes in the form of Phishing. Your personal identity can be compromised in a number of ways. In the past, someone would go through your trash or a dumpster and take documents with personal information. Now, the computer is the fastest for identity theft. Your computer can be “hacked” and you are completely unaware. Don’t open an attachment in an email form anyone you don’t know. Make sure your virus software is up-to-date and your email is protected. There are local computer repair companies who can educate you on the best way to protect your information in your computer. Computers are a way of life but we need to take steps to protect ourselves.
If you become the victim of a scam, file a report with the police department. For more information and ways to protect yourself, go to https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds