Thursday, April 18, 2019

Letters and Emails and Calls—Oh My! How to Avoid Getting Scammed



A sweepstakes prize notification comes in the mail. Some anonymous phone call promises you a free vacation. Through an ominous sounding email, you are warned of potential prosecution for tax evasion or public humiliation for visiting an inappropriate website.

These are only but an example of the many types of fraudulent snail and emails and phone calls. This bombardment of scams preys a poem victims responding to high pressure and lack of information. Here are a few ways you can avoid the scams.


Do a Search


Often, scammers will have an email or phone number but no identity of the company or entity. This alone can signal a potential scam. Not surprisingly, the cheats do not want themselves revealed.

Type in the email address, regular mail address, or phone number into an online database or reverse search service. If the scammer has done this with other people, chances are people have talked about it online.

Include in your Google search a few words or phrases from the message. This may generate hits from government or consumer watchdogs, such as the Better Business Bureau, that contain warnings. If you’re suspicious, contact your local Better Business Bureau, state consumer protection office or the Federal Trade Commission.


Smell a Phish


Phishing refers to attempts to get your personal and financial information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and credit card account numbers. Often, these scammers will mimic a legitimate company (including one with whom you have dealings) or a government agency.






The call, mail or email may contain a warning that you will face prosecution or other dire consequences unless you hand over information and pay money. Other scammers phish by claiming that they need updated information from you or that an invoice his due.

The IRS will not call you to collect on unpaid taxes. Instead, it will send you an official notice based upon items specific to your tax return or situation, which a scammer likely would not have. Credit card and other companies with whom you deal already obtained information from you when you opened the account. Contact your companies to learn their procedures for contacting you. Ignore invoices for items you have not ordered or companies you have not contacted.

Check for grammatical and spelling errors as well as for the original source of the email.


Avoid Those Who Want You to Be “Up Front”


This is not a call for you to be dishonest. It is a warning to avoid those who want you to pay in advance for particular items.

One of these types of scams inform you that you have won a prize, but you must furnish your credit card and other financial information to pay for shipping and handling. Not surprisingly, the charge appears on your card, but no prize appears at your door or mailbox. The pay up front scams often populate themselves in work-at-home for other employment schemes, promises for debt relief and mortgage assistance. Often, these “pay in advance” scammers do not have a company name or address.

Additionally, be aware that legitimate, professional agencies will never ask for payment in the form of gift cards. Scammers often ask for forms of payment that you can’t recover or cancel if you second guess them later.

Avoiding scams through the mail, email and telephone requires that you resist. That is, don’t succumb to the pressure to respond immediately. Investigate the message or claim. Consult legitimate online resources, official agencies (local, state and federal) and your own common sense. Often, no response to the message is the best approach.


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