April 2019

6 Tips For Avoiding Phone and Email Scams

By Frederick Winter

Scams and cons are as old as history itself (“I’ll sell you a cave for just one mammoth skin if you act now!”). The variety of scams is ever growing and changing, but the Briljent IT department ensures that our staff remain as safe and forewarned as possible. Here is a list of helpful tips and common scams currently in circulation.

Tips

1. “If it’s too good to be true… ”
It probably is.  Most scams rely on a fast sale, so there will be some reason you have to buy right now and why the price is so low.

2. “This is a quick way to make money!”

Yes, it is… for the scammer. So many people use the “hey-just-in-case-because-you-never-know” justification for buying into things. But it just perpetuates the problem and exposes them to risk.

3. “You have won a sweepstakes!”

If you enter into a lot of sweepstakes and lotteries, you may be more susceptible to this. You might not remember everything you have entered. No one will win something by accident.

4. “Someone will send me X if I give them Y first.”

There are so many variations on this. If you have to send something first “for them to trust you” it’s a scam.

5. “I just got a call that my (insert relative’s name here) is in trouble and I need to wire them money.”

Contact the relative directly. If the caller tells you that you cannot or should not contact them, do it anyway. VERY common scam.

6. The elderly are more susceptible

Please help parents, grandparents, and older friends to be cautious. Talk to them about scams. If they are fine with you helping, find out what they donate to and do research. My hard-of-hearing father always just said, “I can’t hear what you’re saying. Write me a letter.” Shockingly, not very many did.

Some common scams today

Automated calls

If you get a call about your car’s warranty, your student loan debt, your credit card debt, etc., just hang up. If you have student loan or credit card debt, get out a statement and call the company directly. They don’t want you blowing money on scams either and will gladly clarify their policies.

Targeted phone calls

  • Microsoft Technical Support: Microsoft will neverever call you to tell you your computer is infected. If you work with these people, it soon will be.
  • Loved one kidnapped: This is truly awful and scary. These people will call and the phone number might be spoofed to look like a loved one’s phone. They will be extremely aggressive, foul mouthed, and threatening violence unless you wire them money. The amount will likely be low, so it can be acquired quickly. They will also warn you not to text the person. Do it anyway. Verify they are okay. You can also demand proof of life. They will try to keep you rattled. Just try to keep calm and report it to the police immediately.
  • Any other calls asking for money: Giving to charities is laudable. But it is strongly recommended that you decide on your own which charities you are going to give to, and never impulsively give over the phone. Research everything.
  • Calls or emails asking for information: Social engineering is extremely common and effective. Scammers can try to get information you might use for security questions. Never, ever give any passwords or codes to anyone.

eBay Scams

There are various websites where you can shop from individuals, including CarGurus and Craigslist. You might see an amazing offer for something, usually one that includes a heartstring-tugging reason why the person is making this offer and needs it done quickly. If you agree to the offer, they might insist that “eBay Support” will contact you. This scammer will have you go purchase eBay gift cards (or something like that) and then instruct you to contact them back to give them the numbers. Just be aware of things like this as they evolve.

Email scams

  • These are constantly evolving, cheap to produce, and can go to thousands of people at once. Use common sense and the tips above. Don’t open attachments. Check email addresses to make certain it really is from whom it says. Never give out information.
  • Never follow instructions to go buy gift cards, even if those instructions are contained in an email from your boss. Contact the person directly with an original email or a phone call to verify.

If in doubt, or if you have concerns over the above, check with your friendly IT staff.

If you found the above information useful, check out this related article: Attack of the Robocalls and How to Fight Back.

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