Foiling Fraudsters

If you don’t recognize the sender, DO NOT open it  |  photo and post by Larry Clinton

Last week we recapped tips for staying safe in public, from a seminar given by Sausalito police officer Sean Smagalski for Sausalito Village. Officer Smagalski and audience members also offered the following tips for thwarting phone scams and email fraud:

  • The most common fraud schemes today use tactics that instill fear and impose a time constraint to cloud logical thinking. If someone is pressuring you to send money, it’s a scam!
  • If you don’t recognize a caller’s number, assume it’s a fraudulent call and let it go to voice mail. 99% of fraudsters won’t leave a message.
  • If anyone ever says you can pay in gift cards, it’s a scam!
  • If the IRS, FBI, court system, or law enforcement contact you demanding money immediately, it’s a scam! Have a loved one help you call your local police agency, and they will help verify this.
  • If Amazon, PG&E, or other businesses contact you with an unexpected charge or bill, it’s likely a scam.
  • Fraud generally occurs via email or phone. Occasionally it will involve mail. It is almost never done in person.
  • Treat all unsolicited emails or calls as fraud. Never respond, especially to a suspicious email. This is how you load viruses onto your computer.
  • DO NOT give your social security number, date of birth, or other personal information to someone via phone or email. The only exception to this is when doing routine business with your health care provider.

Common scams:

Fake (or real) computer virus—you get a notice that your computer has been infected, with an unsolicited offer to fix the problem. Do not reply! They will attempt to gain access to your computer to steal bank account information, email access and passwords. ALWAYS get computer issues resolved in person, at a physical store.

Relatives in trouble—You receive an email from a relative claiming that they are in jail, or in trouble in a foreign country, and they need you to make a money wire transfer immediately. Even worse, criminals can now use artificial intelligence to call you and impersonate a loved one’s voice on the phone.

There is an easy fix for these scams. Create a secret pass code that only you and your loved ones know. Do this in person, NOT by electronic means. If it is truly a family member in trouble, they will be able to verify their identity.

How to avoid being victimized:

Slow Down. There is never a true rush. Give yourself time to think. Assume that anyone pressuring you with threats or time limits is a criminal.

Be suspicious of all unsolicited contact.

No legitimate organization accepts payment via gift cards or wireless transfer.

Beware any prize offering. Assume it is fraud.

No stranger on the phone wants to be your friend. It’s a ploy to gain trust.

Ask for help from someone you trust ANY time you receive unexpected contact. This can be family, a friend, or the police.