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Sharing “what you know” can help protect “who you know” from a scam

December is Identity Theft and Protection Awareness month. It is recognized by the American Bankers Association with good reason. We would like to share valuable information sited from the Federal Trade Commission, as they are experts on educating the public on the most common and current scams that are intended to hurt the public.

First off, look around. According to the Federal Trade Commission, chances are good that someone you know has been scammed. They may not talk about it, but if the statistics are right, it has happened. The truth is that sharing “what you know” can help protect “who you know” from a scam. Why?

Because people are more likely to listen to someone they trust: a friend, a neighbor, a relative. You can receive valuable material to better educate yourself and people you love by going to www.ftc.gov/PassItOn.

Here are six current scams that could be targeted at you:

Health care scams

If you are on Medicare, you have a Medicare card to prove it. Scammers can aim for seniors by calling to say ‘you need a new card’. Stop; this is one of several health care scams. Don’t give out your card information. Instead, check it out by calling1-800-MEDICARE right away. Ask them and ask yourself these questions; Do I really need a new card?’ ‘Is that advertised discounted insurance really a good deal?’ Is that “government official” really from the government?

Overpaying bills

Everyone pays bills, but are you paying more than you should? Keep track of what you usually pay. Review you charges line by line. Question charges that you don’t recognize. You are your own best advocate. If something looks wrong or unfamiliar, call the company and ask ‘what the charge is’. If you don’t like the response that you get, ask for a supervisor. And keep written records of your calls.

Prize winnings

Someone calls to say, ‘Congratulations – you won a prize, but you can’t get it until you send money.’ Stop. Don’t wire money to collect a prize. If you have to pay, it’s no prize. Keep your money and your information to yourself. The person calling you is likely to appear very excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings. Hang up, and report this scam immediately.

Charitable donations

Has someone ever asked you to donate money to a charity? Today? Stop. Call the charity. And never donate by wiring money. Sadly, this has happened in our own backyards.

How can you tell if a charity is legitimate? Scammers want money quickly. Typically these scammers pressure you to donate money right away. They might ask for cash, and might even offer to send a courier or ask you to wire money. Scammers also often refuse to send you information about the charity, give you details, or tell you how the money will be used. They might even thank you for making a pledge you don’t remember making. Take your time with this. Tell the callers to send you information by email. For request via mail, do your research. Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash or wire money. Chances are, that’s a scam.

Needy askers

Has someone ever called you to ask for money? Are they who they say they are? Sadly, impostor scams are very common. You might get a call or an email, from a child, a grandchild, a niece or a nephew, another relative, or a friend. Whatever the story, the request is the same: wire money to pay taxes or fees or wire money to help someone you care about. But is the person really who you think it is? Is there an emergency or a prize involved? Judging by the complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission, the answer in no. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need money.

Tech support scams

Finally, one of the most common and most current scams today are tech support scams. You might get a pop-up or other urgent message from someone saying your computer is infected. It might seem like the message comes from a well-known company like Microsoft or Apple, or maybe your internet service provider. It tells you there are viruses or other malware on your computer. It says that you have to call a number or risk losing your personal data. These types of scammers want to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number, or get access to your computer to install malware, which could let them see everything on your computer. Stop. Don’t call the phone number or click on a link. Don’t send money and don’t give out your credit card information. Do not give these scammers control.

If someone does get your personal information and does run up bills in your name, or if they have gone so far as to get your Social Security or Medicare number, along with your good name, you need to report this right away. If you spot a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Please pass this information on to a friend and take these steps to protect your information:

Go online:IdentityTheft.gov
Call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or 1-877-ID-THEFT
Go online:www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

Brenda Spezze
Vice President Electronic Banking, High Country Bank
Source: Material provided by the Federal Trade Commission