First, if you think you might have been tricked into giving personal information to a scammer, you should take steps to protect your identity. Here is the Federal Trade Commission website: https://www.identitytheft.gov/info-lost-or-stolen.html
It is virtually impossible to identify some scams. Some are obvious: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you’ll get something for free or relatively little cost, it probably isn’t free or even cheap. You will not win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes if you don’t enter and they will not call you first asking for money.
Scammers are getting more sophisticated though. I used to be able to look up a phone number online to verify it’s authenticity. But anyone can create a website that says anything they want and put any phone number, legit or not. They make copies of official websites with all the correct logos and legitimate-looking email addresses. They’ll even post articles or blogs with current events. Scammers can also use “spoofing” to make a legitimate phone number show up on your caller ID. So a scammer calls you and you quickly look up the phone number to determine you are talking to the agency they say they work for. The problem is, they’ve spoofed the phone number! It IS a real agency but that’s not who you’re talking to.
I’ve gotten use to spam email. I’ve set my email to move most of it immediately so I don’t even have to look at it. I get emails from myself all the time. But, of course, someone has “spoofed” my email address so it’s not really from me.
This OPM data breach is the issue that’s confusing me today. I didn’t get a call or an email. I got something in the mail. It says my information was stolen and that I am protected because they are a responsible government agency and will take care of me. But then it gets confusing. It sounds like I am “protected” without any other involvement on my part. But in another sentence it sounds like I need to create an account in order to be protected. I can do it online or call a phone number. Everything is believable.
In the past I’ve been able to look at review sites or complaint sites to see if people are talking about a phone number or certain company being a scam. But now, you can find just as many people talking about it being legit as those saying it is a scam.
Scammers have friends (or partners) who know how to use social media to further their business!
Scammers will prey on our greed, vanity, health, parenting skills, financial\social\emotional well-being and security. They know how to make their business sound legitimate to even the tech-savvy.
Yes, the sky IS falling!
I feel like I should know better! I have a degree in computer science and worked for 25 years in database development for the Air Force. But I was scammed about a year after I retired. He was friendly to me, posing as someone working for a company that I used regularly for customer service. But he didn’t work for them and he manipulated me into giving information I shouldn’t have. I became more cynical since then but am still seeing scammer’s sophistication growing. They are speaking better English now too. It’s important to their success to speak better English. They can afford speech lessons because their scam is working with some people. Their emails have better grammar too.
Tip: If you buy things online, use one credit card specifically for online purchases. Keep the limit on that card low, like $500. You may have to pay it off more often but it is less of a target than a high limit card.
Here’s a tip I recently heard: Since you can get a free credit report annually from each of the 3 credit report agencies, stagger them throughout the year. That way you’ll get a quicker look into any fraudulent activity with your personal information. AnnualCreditReport.com