Stopping scams cold turkey

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It’s the Business Blog equivalent of a Thanksgiving tradition: our annual reminder to share tips at your holiday gathering about avoiding those other kinds of turkeys – consumer scams. We’ve introduced you to the FTC’s interactive Age & Fraud Loss graphic on our Tableau Public page. As the green bean casserole bakes, take a moment to explore the page for advice tailored to family members of every generation.

For young adults.  Reports in the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database suggest that people starting out in the work world may be disproportionately stung by fake check scams. Responding to what appear to be employment opportunities, they may get an upfront check with a supposed assignment. (Mystery shopping a retail outlet is a common story.) The scammer tells the person to deposit the check in their account and then use some of the money to “evaluate” the retailer by buying gift cards. (The “employer” will ask for the gift card PIN numbers, of course.) But when the check bounces, the person’s bank holds them responsible for the full amount. The FTC has an infographic about how to spot the signs of a fake check scam.

For people in the middle years.  Reports also suggest that consumers in the middle years should be particularly vigilant when it comes to romance scams. With so many people looking for love through online dating apps and social networking sites, it’s not surprising that con artists lurk there, too. They talk a good game and often claim to have a compelling back story involving work outside the United States, military deployment, or another reason why they can’t meet in person. But the minute an online love interest drops a hint about cash or pricey presents, it’s time for a virtual break-up. Remind family members never to send money or gifts to so-called sweethearts they haven’t met in person.

For older consumers.  The message for older relatives is to learn the signs of a family emergency scam. Crooks may pose as grandchildren or other kin, begging for money to get out of jail, pay a hospital bill, or leave a foreign country. Some scammers add to the authenticity by trolling social media and targeting people who have relatives traveling abroad. The callers often insist on confidentiality – “Please don’t tell Dad and Mom” – but it’s just a ploy to prevent detection. This year, over the pumpkin pie, make a pact to respond to pleas like that with a direct call to the relative supposedly in distress using a number you know is legitimate and a second call to check the story out with someone else in the family.

Advice for everyone.  If you’re celebrating a Friendsgiving this year, warn your pals about the ever-changing face of imposter scams – a form of fraud that strikes people of all ages. Con artists use robocalls, phone calls, email, and texts to pretend to be from the IRS, FBI, Social Security Administration, or other agency. Or they might reach out through a popup alert that looks like it’s from Apple or Microsoft. They usually insist on personal data or payment, often in the form of wire transfers or gift cards. Some crooks have upped the ante by personalizing their pitch. For example, small business owners may get calls claiming their company will be shuttered if they don’t pay an obscure “tax.” Attorneys, accountants, and others have been told their state licenses will be lifted unless they wire “fees” by the end of the day or click a link to input personal information.

How can you raise topics like this around the table? When there’s a lull in the conversation, open up about a personal incident – “Wait ‘til you hear about a call I got last week” – and ask others to share similar experiences.

 

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