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Beware of Scammers!

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We seem to hear more and more stories about scams…sad, but true. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. We went to their website to see the latest Scam Alerts. Here is a snippet of what we found:

Scammers Impersonate the Police

You get a phone call. Someone you care about is in jail and, they say, you need to pay up to bail him out. The scam-detecting radar in your head immediately goes off. You’re skeptical – but the caller ID says the call is from the police department.

The caller tells you to put money on a prepaid card and give him the card number. Now your scam-detecting radar is going off the charts. You know that police departments — and the federal government, for that matter — don’t tell people to pay with prepaid cards. You also know using a prepaid card is like paying cash — once the money is gone, you can’t get it back.

“But what about the caller ID?” you wonder. In fact, what seems like reliable information about the source of a call isn’t so reliable anymore. Scammers can rig caller ID to look like they’re calling from the police department. Or, really, anywhere — even your own number. Don’t rely on caller ID. It’s not foolproof. Scammers can easily spoof it to try to gain your trust. If it looks like the police are calling, look up the non-emergency phone number (hint: it’s not 9-1-1) and call to find out if the story is legit. You’ll soon learn it’s a scam.

Report the imposter to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Select the category “Scams and Rip-offs” then “Impostor Scams”.

Attention Grandparents: Watch out for phony debt collectors

Here’s what’s happening: A fake debt collector calls you. They want to collect on a debt your grandchild (supposedly) failed to pay. They ask you to wire money, send a prepaid card or give your credit card number – immediately. And if you won’t – or can’t – pay? That’s when the threats begin:

“Your grandchild will be arrested.”
“He’ll lose his job.”
“We’ll suspend her driver’s license.”

Unless you co-signed a loan, you’re never responsible for someone else’s debt. In fact, debt collectors can’t legally tell you that someone – anyone – else even has a debt.

If you get one of these calls, stop. Don’t be rushed into sending money. Don’t verify any personal or financial information. And hang up if the caller threatens you. Debt collectors can’t do that. It’s not legal. Once you’re off the phone, report the call to the FTC.

Want more? Read the FTC’s tips on how to avoid family emergency scams. And check out their Pass It On, which encourages older adults to talk to others about avoiding scams.

Here are some additional great tips from the FTC’s website on how to avoid Family emergency scams:

Verify an Emergency

If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
  • Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Scammers Use Tricks

  • They impersonate your loved one convincingly.
  • They play on your emotions.
  • They swear you to secrecy.
  • They insist that you wire money right away.

It’s scary how convincing scammers can be. They use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year, using sophisticated technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information.

The FTC Website is a great resource to stay a step ahead with the latest alerts, information and tips. Check it out at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

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