Guest Column

Staying informed could protect information, finances

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Phone calls, voicemails, texts, emails, social media — it may seem like you’re being endlessly bombarded with attempts to be scammed out of money and information. At best, these scam attempts are an annoyance, and at worst, they could mean getting your identity stolen and some serious financial issues.

However, simply staying informed and knowing what resources are at your disposal are some of the best ways to defend yourself against this frustration.

Watch and read the news. New and common scams are often featured in the news, and these stories also provide tips on how to deal with these types of situations.

Know that neither the Social Security Administration nor the IRS will reach out to you by phone, text, or email. They solely communicate through mail. Both of these agencies also have websites with information regarding common scams in which callers pose as employees.

Local officers have dealt with multiple reports of people receiving phone calls during which someone one has posed as a member of a law enforcement agency or Social Security Administration employee. In multiple cases, the caller stated that there was a legal complaint against the individual’s Social Security Number, and some of these calls involved the threat of a warrant for the individual’s arrest.

Be skeptical of unsolicited texts from people you don’t know, especially if they contain links. If you do receive these texts, be careful about clicking on the links. If you haven’t subscribed to texts through your bank or other places you do business and you receive a text from that business, be suspicious. If you do question whether something like this is legitimate, check your online account in a different browser or contact your bank or the business directly.

If you have to pay money to get money, it’s likely a scam. One scam is an offer to make easy money. The scammer sends a fake money order or fake check with instructions to deposit the check, some of which you’re supposed to get to keep after you purchase some gift cards and provide the gift card numbers. By the time your bank discovers the check is fraudulent, you’re on the hook with your bank for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Be aware that your personal information is valuable to people who run scams, and there are plenty of ploys used to get it. Some people make it all too easy by providing too much information on social media. Additionally, taking seemingly harmless quizzes on social media could lead you to unwittingly providing more information than you intended. It could also lead to getting your accounts hacked or cloned. In retrospect, maybe finding out what your favorite shade of blue says about your personality or discovering whether your spirit animal is the honey badger isn’t in your best interest.

There are several red flags to recognize even if someone is posing as a legitimate agency, business, or organization. In many cases of scam phone calls, the caller doesn’t want the victim to hang up or doesn’t want the victim to contact anyone else. This is because the caller doesn’t want to give the victim a chance to verify information or take the opportunity to think through what’s happening. Scammers will also often prey on emotions of fear related to the possibility of being arrested or fear for the safety and well-being of a relative.

Regardless of the medium used, if something seems off or too good to be true, it likely is. It’s also not a bad idea to simply let a call go to voicemail if you don’t know the caller or if you aren’t expecting a phone call. You can always call back if it was important enough for the caller to leave a message.

Some resources worth checking out:

• Federal Trade Commission (www.consumer.ftc.gov). File a consumer complaint. View consumer alerts regarding scams. Report identity theft. Register for the do not call list. Get a free credit report.

• Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org/us/news/scams). Read up on the latest scams. File a complaint. Report a scam.

• Indiana Attorney General (www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2475.htm). Sign up for fraud alerts or file a consumer complaint.

• The IRS provides information regarding tax scams at www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

• The Social Security Administration provides information on scams related to Social Security at www.ssa.gov.

 

Crawfordsville Police Officer Krista Tedrow contributed this guest column.

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