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Scams are becoming more sophisticated; Plumas residents experience losses

It’s no secret that scammers prey upon everyone — using phone calls, texts and emails to separate people from their money. Recently, a home health nurse contacted Plumas News to alert us to a scam that cost the victim approximately $50,000.

According to the nurse, an elderly individual received a phone call from an individual who spoke about a better investment for retirement funds, and unfortunately this elder fell for it, and wrote a check to them for cash. An account of this scam was also reported in the Sheriff’s Blotter.

In another instance, an individual received a call last week from someone claiming to be from Bank of America telling her that she had been hacked. In this instance even the caller’s number came up as correct for BofA. The caller asked pertinent questions and was very believable. This resulted in a loss of $2,000-plus. It was only when the individual called BofA the next day, that she discovered it was a scam.

These are but two recent examples of scams reported in Plumas County. The Federal Trade Commission offers information that is helpful for individuals to protect themselves from these increasingly sophisticated scams. The following if from the FTC:

People lose a lot of money to phone scams — sometimes their life savings. Scammers have figured out countless ways to cheat you out of your money over the phone. In some scams, they act friendly and helpful. In others, they might threaten or try to scare you. One thing you can count on is that a phone scammer will try to get your money or your personal information to commit identity theft. Don’t give it to them. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Examples of Common Phone Scams

Any scam can happen over the phone. But here are some common angles phone scammers like to use:

Imposter scams

A scammer pretends to be someone you trust — a government agency like the Social Security Administration or the IRS, a family member, a love interest, or someone claiming there’s a problem with your computer. The scammer can even have a fake name or number show up on your caller ID to convince you.

Debt relief and credit repair scams

Scammers will offer to lower your credit card interest ratesfix your credit, or get your student loans forgiven if you pay their company a fee first. But you could end up losing your money and ruining your credit.

Business and investment scams

Callers might promise to help you start your own business and give you business coaching, or guarantee big profits from an investment. Don’t take their word for it. Learn about the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule, and check out investment opportunities with your state securities regulator.

Charity scams

Scammers like to pose as charities. Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common on the phone. Always check out a charity before you give, and don’t feel pressured to give immediately over the phone before you do.

Extended car warranties

Scammers find out what kind of car you drive and when you bought it so they can urge you to buy overpriced — or worthless — service contracts.

“Free” trials

A caller might promise a free trial but then sign you up for products — sometimes lots of products — that you’re billed for every month until you cancel.

Loan scams

Loan scams include advance fee loan scams, where scammers target people with a poor credit history and guarantee loans or credit cards for an up-front fee. Legitimate lenders don’t make guarantees like that, especially if you have bad credit, no credit, or a bankruptcy.

Prize and lottery scams

In a typical prize scam, the caller will say you’ve won a prize, but then say you need to pay taxes, registration fees, or shipping charges to get it. But after you pay, you find out there is no prize.

Travel scams and timeshare scams

Scammers promise free or low-cost vacations that can end up costing you a lot in hidden costs. And sometimes, after you pay, you find out there is no vacation. In timeshare resale scams, scammers lie and tell you they’ll sell your timeshare — and may even have a buyer lined up — if you pay them first.

 

How To Stop Calls From Scammers

Hang up

Even if it’s not a scammer calling, when a company is calling you illegally, it’s not a company you want to do business with. When you get a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Instead of letting you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, it might lead to more robocalls.

Consider call blocking or call labeling

Scammers can use the internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. Which type of call-blocking or call-labeling technology you use will depend on the phone — whether it’s a cell phone, a traditional landline, or a home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP). See what services your phone carrier offers, and look online for expert reviews. For cell phones, you also can check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your online app store.

Don’t trust your caller ID

Scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. That’s called spoofing. So even if it looks like it’s a government agency like the Social Security Administration calling, or like the call is from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world.

Learn more about unwanted calls and what to do about them at ftc.gov/calls.

 

What To Do If You Already Paid a Scammer

Scammers often ask you to pay in ways that make it tough to get your money back. No matter what payment method you used to pay, the sooner you act, the better.

If you paid a scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or bank right away. Tell them what happened, and ask for a “chargeback” to reverse the charges.

If you paid a scammer with a gift card, prepaid card, or cash reload card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the card, and ask if they can refund your money. The sooner you contact them, the better the chance they’ll be able to get your money back.

If you paid a scammer by wiring money through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram, call the company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. Call the complaint department:

  • MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947)
  • Western Union at 1-800-325-6000 

Ask for the wire transfer to be reversed. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask.

If you paid a scammer using amoney transfer app, contact the company behind the app. If the app is linked to a credit card or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank first.

If you gave a scammer remote access to your computerupdate your computer’s security software. Then run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.

If you gave your username and password to a scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.

If you gave a scammer your Social Security number (SSN), visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to monitor your credit report to see if your SSN is being misused.

If someone calls and offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost, don’t give them money or personal information. You’re probably dealing with a fake refund scam.

 

Report Phone Scams

If you’ve lost money to a phone scam or have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

If you didn’t lose money and just want to report a call, you can use our streamlined reporting form at DoNotCall.gov.

Report the number that appears on your caller ID — even if you think it might be fake — and any number you’re told to call back. The FTC analyzes complaint data and trends to identify illegal callers based on calling patterns. We also use additional information you report, like any names or numbers you’re told to call back, to track down scammers.

We take the phone numbers you report and release them to the public each business day. This helps phone carriers and other partners that are working on call-blocking and call-labeling solutions. Your reports also help law enforcement identify the people behind illegal calls.

Sheriff’s Office Advice

The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office has shared these tips to protect yourself from scammers via emails or  texts:

Beware of phishing scams – scammers often send emails or texts that look legitimate in order to get you to enter personal information. Always double-check the sender’s email address and never click on suspicious links.

Use strong passwords – using unique and complex passwords that include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols can help prevent a hacker from accessing your accounts and personal information.

Don’t give out personal information – be wary of anyone who asks for your personal information such as your social security number, date of birth, or credit card information. Legitimate companies will never ask for this information via email or phone.

Check for secure websites – before making any online purchases, make sure the website is secure by looking for a lock icon in the address bar or “https” at the beginning of the URL.

By following these simple steps, you can protect yourself and your personal information from online scammers. Share this post with your friends and family to help educate others about online scams.

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