The Scammers Are Standing By…to Cheat You. 5 Tips to Stay Safe

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

Update June 29 — Since we wrote this article another major malware/ransomware attack, Petya, started in the Ukraine and spread across the world. Here is a helpful article from Norton (they make a good anti-virus software) – 7 Tips to Prevent Ransomware Attacks.
June 14, 2018 – Don’t think for a second that you are safe from the criminals who are trying to separate you from your money. There are tens of thousands of these folks who spend all day, every day, coming up with clever ways to trick you. Here are just a few tips to help keep them at bay.

1. Never, ever give out private information like credit card, SSAN, or bank account numbers to someone calling you. No reputable outfit will ask you for it. The IRS doesn’t call people, they send letters. If you “won” something, someone tells you your grandson needs bail money, or that you missed jury duty, hang up. They are trying to trick you. No credit card company or bank will ask for your credit card or account number.

2. Be very cautious about giving out too much information over the phone, even if you are the one calling out. Here is how your editor got tricked last week. We called our credit card company about a declined purchase attempt. Unfortunately we mis-dialed by one number. The foreign sounding phone rep seemed to need more details about my account, and we should have been much more suspicious. In a hurry and ignoring our instincts, we helpfully provided those. Deep into the conversation it just didn’t feel right and we hung up. Realizing we had just given up the store, we dialed the right number, where the fraud department informed us we would have to cancel the card. We’ve spent a lot of time changing online credit card numbers since!

3. Do not open any attachment to an email. This is how many election and other government officials were hacked by the Russians. Now other criminals are perfecting this scam. The attachment can take over your computer and compromise you and everyone on your address list. Of course you can open documents if you are expecting them, AND they come from a trusted source. But the problem is that if one of your friends has been hacked, attachments from them might be dangerous. When in doubt – DO NOT OPEN! Apple has some good tips about safely opening attachments.

4. Get virus protection for your computer. These inexpensive tools will provide warnings if you venture onto a site that is trying to trick you. You do need to follow its warnings too. If a box pops up on your computer with a warning that you need to call or go somewhere to fix a problem with your computer – ignore it! Do not click on it or call the number.

5. Delete your cookies and browsing history every few weeks. Ever wonder why if you are shopping for shoes why you keep seeing ads for shoes. That is because your computer is showing everything about your past computer use to each new site you visit. Getting rid of your cookies will delete any personal info, and have the benefit of speeding up your computer. How to delete cookies differs by browser and type of computer – on Apple you go to “History” and click on “Clear Recent History”.

Comments? Have you been scammed? Please share your experiences and what you learned in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
Confident You Won’t Be Scammed? Think Again!
AARP Telephone Scam Tips




Posted by Admin on June 14th, 2017

19 Comments »

  1. I got scammed with a magazine subscription. It was approximately for a year’s subscription. The person called on the phone and I thought I was being carful and said I would prefer to get something in the mail. They mailed me the offer and I thought it was legit. The current subscription never showed a new expiration date, month after month. I contacted them and they said the expiration date would change and it didn’t. I called them and asked for my money back and they refused. I wrote to the Better Business Bureau in AZ and they intervened. I got a letter saying this magazine company agreed to pay me back. It never happened. I corresponded for the longest time and never got my money back. My advice is to NOT pay any company that appears to represent a magazine company. If you pay your bill by mail, make sure the envelope says the name of the publication like Good Housekeeping, Time, Readers Digest, etc. Not XYZ Publishers as an example. This scam outfit is from Arizona and I still get offers from them. Every time I get one, it makes my blood boil!

    by louise — June 15, 2017

  2. If I want to read a magazine I will just buy it or get it online. I gave up subscriptions to magazines long ago. The scams do abound. After a while I just get irritated getting the offers in the mail–if you start with one others follow.

    by Jennifer — June 17, 2017

  3. I get approximately 10 magazines for free every month just by doing some very short surveys. Then I share them in our retirement community.

    by mary11 — June 18, 2017

  4. Computer scams abound…be safe. If someone calls you and says your computer has viruses, your Microsoft is out of date, your internet will be shut down, etc. HANG UP – 100% are scams, Microsoft will never call you. NEVER let them take over your computer – just hang up. If you get a popup on your screen saying “your computer is infected, call a number, don’t shut it down” – DO NOT call the number, these are 100% scams. Hold in your on button for about 15 seconds until the computer is shut down. Then you can restart it. I work in a senior community as a computer tech and these 2 things are getting seniors really often. NEVER let them on your computer or they can cause havoc when you say no to their $299-$599 offers. ALso, the phishing emails are just constant, they look legitimate, they are not – if you look at the email address it comes from that is usually a giveaway. They may come from a bank, airline, paypal, UPS, Apple…anyone – if they have a link and the first thing the link wants is your logon information, they are just looking to steal your information. Delete them! If it is from your bank, call you bank if you are concerned. Be a skeptic, the crooks are trying to fool you.

    by ljtucson — June 19, 2017

  5. I have also gotten the Microsoft scammers calling my house. I have chewed them out and told them they were scammers and they tried to argue with me that they were not. I hung up. They called back! I hung up again. Since then I have had numerous calls from them. I also just don’t answer my phone very often anymore. I have been getting a call from Sacramento, CA every single day for days on end. I finally answered it and it was from some Timeshare resale company. I told them in a very irritated voice to take my name off their list and that I didn’t have a timeshare. GRRRR!!! What good is the Do Not Call List when these maniacs call day after day and of course they are robo calls. Infuriating! I have a phone where I can block but I think the max calls that I can block is 200! My poor mother, God rest her soul, would have lost her mind with these calls all day long. Back when these robo calls started and it was from ‘Rachael’ to fix your credit, my mom didn’t realize these were recorded messages but would hang up. Older people are more easily suckered in with these scammers. ljtucson, I also have had my computer freeze up with that message to call a telephone number. I knew this was a scam and turned my computer off then back on. Worked fine. There is another scam where it will be night time and you will hear a baby crying at your front door. I think that is a home invasion ploy. They say to call the Police if you should hear that. It is most likely a recording outside the door and not a baby. And ladies, please keep your purse close to you. It never fails I go to the grocery store and see women leave their purse in the seat of the grocery cart while they wander off to look at something! My husband has witnessed this too and actually watched some woman’s purse while she wandered off. She didn’t know it but she had a guardian angel that day. No one stole the purse but how easy it would have been.

    by louise — June 19, 2017

  6. Louise and all:

    I bought a Travelon purse on QVC, the type with a shoulder strap to wear cross body and it has RFID protection. I use it everywhere during the day. That way when I am shopping at the grocery store everything I need is on me. I hate to see people leaving their purses in the shopping cart as well. I also volunteer at the Washington National Cathedral and I am shocked at how many ladies every month leave their purses under their chair as they go up for communion and then are surprised when they come back to their seat and the purse is gone!! Please take your purse with you if you attend a church where you must leave your chair for Holy Communion. Thieves are lurking everywhere!!

    by Jennifer — June 20, 2017

  7. Another way to tell if this is a scam is to ask the WHO are they calling for! Usually these folks have NO IDEA who they are talking to – big clue there. We’ve gotten the ones from the “Treasury Department” and they never ask for a specific person. How can they know if I owe taxes if they don’t even know who I am??? That, of course, and the fact that the “Treasury Department” would NEVER call you. But if they don’t know who you are – they aren’t calling you to discuss anything other than to get you to give them more information.

    That said, occasionally, they will have your name from a list they purchased but they will still be fishing for info. Turn the tables, IF you happen to pick up, and ask THEM the questions. If they are legit – they would already have your account information.

    They computer ones are funny. They have called here and since we have several computers, I always ask them which computer they are calling about. They always say, “the one that is turned on.” When I say that none of them are on or all of them are on – they can never give me more info so I just laugh and hang up.

    I agree – these are really annoying and a waste of my time. I think that caller-ID on the phone is about the best thing ever invented! Be wary, be smart, and be careful!

    by Flatearth6 — June 20, 2017

  8. Good information Jennifer on the Travelon purse. I don’t have that particular purse but I wear mine with the strap across my body too. I never set it down. Another thing I do is when I pump gas, I take out my credit card and lock my car with the car keys in my hand so no one can jump in and take off with the car or open the side door to steal my purse. I try to pay attention to what is going on around me.

    I was in the grocery store one day and saw a guy looking through many packages of chicken. He was there quite a while and it perked my interest to see if there was some great sale going on. After he left, I went over to check it out and didn’t find anything exciting. So, I was still shopping for meat and that same guy came back to the chicken and had apparently paid for the one or two small packages he selected. He started stuffing as many packages as he could into the bag and took off! I was totally shocked. By the time I realized what had happened it was really too late to alert anyone and the stores all have cameras. So my guess is that he was looking for the least expensive packages of chicken to pay for then took more so he could say he had a receipt if he got caught. He could blame the cashier for not scanning the other packages.

    by louise — June 20, 2017

  9. My husband and I have recently received messages on our iPhones that we have “viruses” that are effecting the security on our phone. All we have to do is click on “ok” for the security update. WE know it’s a scam and exit the screen, but I wonder how many less informed seniors are victimized.

    by Staci — June 21, 2017

  10. Louise, Yes I always lock my doors when pumping gas too. No way is anyone going to jump into my car and steal anything. We have to inform everyone to be vigilant.

    The Travelon purse is constructed inside and under the lining and the cross body strap too with a crisscross wiring system so that the purse cannot be slashed. There are locks on the zippers and even a way to lock your purse to your chair while dining. They come in different sizes ,styles and colors and honestly it is one of the most used purses I have. The RFID protection prevents thieves from using a device to scan your credit card…while it is in the pocket construction of the purse. I love innovation. This one works for me.

    by Jennifer — June 21, 2017

  11. Although both are serious problems, there is a difference between identity theft and scamming. ID theft is often reimbursed by banks, CC companies and the like. However, scamming victims are almost never made whole. Since the victims voluntarily provide their banking information, send checks, or mail cash, there is little that authorities can do to protect them.

    My father-in-law was recently taken for a $10K – $15K loss, despite daily caregiver support (his caregiver was the one who eventually figured out that there was a problem – thank God for the CG!). I was contacted by a very helpful US Postal Inspector who turned around one piece of mail that had $200 in it and a bank in FL that stopped a $600 check, but according to both of those professionals, catching these creeps is nearly impossible.

    I will post the details of how this multi-level ring operates if anyone wants to know, but in the interest of brevity, let’s just say that the postal inspector told me that this particular ring, which operates out of Jamaica, takes in HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars PER YEAR from Americans, primarily elderly folks.

    The truth is that these guys aren’t very sophisticated. But it’s sort of like that old joke when a grizzly is chasing two guys. One says to the other, “Do you really think you can outrun that bear?” And the second man replies, “I don’t have to outrun that bear. I only have to outrun you.” Believe me, most would laugh at the utter lack of sophistication of their stories. Their scam skills are beyond weak. Nevertheless, they were more sophisticated than my dear, sweet, mildly cognitively impaired, unsuspecting FIL, which is how he got caught. He was the slower runner.

    After sorting out my FIL, I had to acknowledge to myself that just as this former savvy aerospace executive had become unable to see through these strikingly low-tech, crude scammers, one day similar cognitive losses may be part of my own personal truth. The time can come when I’m the easier prey.

    Food for thought for us all.

    by JCarol — June 25, 2017

  12. Carol, what a kind heart you have. My heart goes out to your FIL. Hard but sad truths. I am glad he head you and his CG to protect him.

    by Daisy May — June 26, 2017

  13. Thanks, Daisy. It took a village to get the ship aright again. My husband and I and my BIL & SIL worked the problem until we knew he was safe from predators. My (90 year old, widowed) FIL is now in an assisted living facility, and although the thought of “living in one of those places” had always terrified him, in less than two weeks he took to it like a duck to water.

    by JCarol — June 26, 2017

  14. Please be very careful when hiring a caregiver…My family hired from a reputable agency or so we thought and the person scammed and stole our identity for thousands of dollars. I the oldest daughter caught on quickly that money was being stolen from credit cards , social security checks being stolen, opening of bank accts. I was able to provide to the police enough info and evidence for them to take the case to the district attorneys office. It took 2 yrs to settle the case and we were able to get back most of the money that was stolen but all the caregiver received was probation for 7 yrs even with priors!!

    by mary11 — June 27, 2017

  15. A very good point, Mary. Many of us hire caregivers, housekeepers, daycare providers, and so forth, making ourselves vulnerable to the possibility that they might harm our children, steal our assets, abuse our parents or otherwise harm us.

    Our family’s caregivers were vetted by an branch of a national agency (Visiting Angels) and remained employees of the local franchise owner. While not foolproof, their vetting, bonds and insurance offered a layer of security. The local owner is very hands-on and available pretty much 24/7. (Our CG alerted the owner who called us immediately.)

    I’m sorry about what happened to your family, Mary. Thieves are bad enough to deal with, but thieves who steal from the elderly or disable are truly despicable.

    I often wonder why we pay scarcely minimum wage to those we entrust with deeply intimate care of our most vulnerable, most beloved people and possessions, yet expect great results from them.

    by JCarol — June 27, 2017

  16. Earlier this year I had bogus charges on my Costco Visa card. I called Citi and they took care of it and I wasn’t charged for the bogus charges. They issued me a new credit card pronto and got it overnight. Very excellent service.

    Just wanted to let you all know about a new service I had added to my phone. It is called Nomorobo. It analyzes each incoming phone call to determine if it is a robo caller and if it is, the call won’t come thru. I did read that it may ring one time. It was installed on my phone last Friday. Typically the robo’ers don’t call on weekends so I couldn’t say it was working or not. Today, Monday, there have been no phone calls or even one ring calls. I do notice that the robo’ers are slower on Mondays though. I have Frontier Communications and I called them to see if they supported Nomorobo and they said yes. They charged me a one time $20 hook up fee. After that there is no charge to have it on your phone.

    This is going to save what is left of my sanity! If you hare also losing your mind on these dastardly robo calls please check with your phone provider. I do think you have to have VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service to be able to hook up Nomorobo.

    by louise — July 17, 2017

  17. We also have Frontier service in the DFW area and here they provide Nomorobo service at no charge for land lines. They do charge for cell phone numbers. We have had this service for about 6 months and it works well. I also notice that, over time, the number of one-ring calls decreases so maybe the robo dialers “learn” not to call numbers with this service as their calls will be automaticcally disconnected.

    One more recent issue we have with automated dialer calls is with “spoofed” numbers that the nomorobo service does not disconnect. We have been receiving for a period of weeks numerous calls per day from an 800 number that appears to be from Comcast. However, when you pick up, seldom in our case, there is no one there, only silence. Once my wife answered and there was someone on the line, she told the person to remove us from their call list but the calls continued. It is apparently some scammers that are able to hijack a legitimate Comcast number and use it for their own purposes. We are at a loss as to how to get these calls to stop.

    by LS — July 18, 2017

  18. LS, I read somewhere that if you get calls that get thru Nomorobo they suggest you make a list of the numbers and call them to report the numbers. Then they will put those numbers into their database. I am all new to this but if it works as they say, it will be a God send. My phone is a VoIP land line.

    by louise — July 18, 2017

  19. I have AT&T Uverse for TV, Internet & Phone. I added Nomorobo about a year ago at no charge. It work GREAT. When my phone rings I don’t get up to answer until it rings twice. I get a LOT of one ringers. Before adding Nomorobo, I did not need to go to the gym and exercise because I was getting up all the time to answer calls. Now I have to pay to go to the gym to exercise. So in my case Nomorobo is costing me – but I love it.

    by Ron F — July 19, 2017

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