Electronic technology has brought about tremendous benefits for today’s society. We can access goods, services, and information, all at the touch of a button. The flip-side of that coin, however, is that this same technology has also spawned countless new opportunities for dishonesty and crime.
It is unlikely that any person who has a telephone, cell phone, or computer has not been the subject of an attempted criminal act, or at least of a scam that may precede an actual crime.
According to a survey by True Link Financial, approximately $12.76 billion is stolen from older Americans each year through identity theft and scams. To help protect yourself, be aware of the most common scams out there.
“I am Calling from Microsoft Tech Support.”
If you receive a call from someone saying they are from Microsoft and a problem has been detected on your computer, don’t believe them. Microsoft does not make these types of calls. The people making the calls are trying to lead you to a website that will unleash malware designed to steal your usernames and passwords for online accounts where they can access your banking and credit card information. If the caller gets you to go to a website, it may look very official, but remember, Microsoft will never contact you this way.
“I am Calling from the Internal Revenue Service. “
According to the AARP Fraud Watch Network, this is one of the most often-reported scams. The caller will state that you either owe back taxes that must be paid immediately or that you are due a refund that can be collected online. In either case, the goal is to get you to a website that will launch malware on your computer in an attempt to seek your financial information and bank account numbers or that will facilitate the theft of your identity. The caller will likely sound very authoritarian and may even be able to state the last four digits of your social security number. Even if the caller gives you a number to call to “verify” that the call is from the IRS, or gives you a “case code number,” don’t participate. Like Microsoft, the IRS will never initiate contact with you by phone. Instead, it will always send a communication through the U.S. Postal Service.
Calls from No One
A common precursor to scam calls is a call on your phone where no one speaks. You may hear clicks on the other end. However, rather than assume it was a wrong number, assume it was an automated call to validate a working telephone number that can be called later by a scammer. It is best to have caller identification on your phone, and you may not want to answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.
The new chip cards for debit and credit use are much safer than magnetic swipe cards in that they change the code each time they are used. While that provides more protection when a retailer suffers a data breach, scammers are catching up quickly and using new and different tactics. They will send emails pretending to be from your financial institution stating that financial information must be provided via a particular linked website. The link will cause malware to be released which searches your computer for account numbers, passwords, and other financially sensitive information.
The best rule to follow in thwarting scammers is never to navigate to a website or click on a link when directed to do so by an unsolicited caller. If you receive an e-mail or phone message asking you to call a number, don’t call that number. Instead, locate the appropriate number for the entity and call that number to determine whether the communication was legitimate.
Yes, technology makes things much easier for us, but it also makes us more vulnerable. It is best to proceed with caution in all things financial and put the brakes on when things do not seem to add up. That is where we can help. You see, we do not just prepare estate planning documents for our clients and send them on their way. We develop ongoing, lifelong relationships which facilitate our clients’ protection and prosperity in ways traditional estate planning law firms don’t – and quite frankly, won’t. We are here to support and advise our clients about more than just their estate plans – like a “suspicious” phone call from the IRS, for example. If that sounds like the kind of relationship you would like with your lawyer, give us a call.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer,® who develops trusting relationships with families for life. That is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.