Be aware of warning signs that you are dealing with a scammer. Unsolicited mail and phone calls are the primary methods used to communicate scams. There are many scams in operation, and anyone can become a victim, including highly educated and intelligent people. Some are well-known, such as the Nigerian scams, but others are much rarer but also more convincing because they are carefully targeted, such as frauds involving grants for scientific research. There are several signs an offer is a scam. Here are 9 signs of a scam, taken from ScamGuard.
1. The Offer Seems Too Good to be True
If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Examples include money left to you from an unknown relative, being awarded a loan or grant you haven’t applied for, winning a lottery you’ve never entered, and being selected to receive a share in funds in return for using your bank account.
2. They Want Private Information
Many scams involve getting hold of your bank account details. Scams involving identity theft also seek personal information, like your social security number.
3. Grammatical Errors
Scammers may be intelligent, but they are not always well educated and don’t always have English as their first language, and their grammatical errors can give them away. If the correspondence you receive is full of errors, be very suspicious.
4. Requests for Fees
Scammers will want advance payments or fees to clear the funds or complete their offer. Never pay fees or taxes in advance unless you are 100% certain it is not a scam.
5. Suspicious Email Domains
Look carefully at the domain name of every contact you receive from a suspected scammer. Suspect any free email address such as hotmail, aim, yahoo, gmail. Other domain names not connected with the name of the company are also suspicious.
6. Suspicious or No Addresses
If there is no physical address and your contacts won’t give you one, it’s a sure bet you’re being scammed.
7. Request for Access to Your Computer
A common scam is a phone call from someone claiming to be a technician who has detected problems with your computer and would like to fix them for you free. Never give anyone remote access to your computer unless you have contacted them and are 100% certain they are not a scammer.
8. Untraceable Payment Method
Scammers prefer payment methods that are untraceable, such as Western Union. Don’t pay anyone advance fees by any means if you have the slightest suspicion it is a scam.
Scammers will often put pressure on their victims and urge them to pay immediately or lose the opportunity. A genuine business making a genuine offer will never pressure you to act immediately.
• Give any caller your social security number!
• Give your credit card number or bank account number!
• Pay processing or administrative fees, for customs, for taxes, or any other reason as a requirement before collecting a prize or award.
• Make a charitable donation with first checking with the Better Business Bureau Wise (BBB) Giving Alliance, which offers information about national charities. Call 703-276-0100 or go to give.org to find out if the “charity” really is a charity.
• Send your payment by a private courier or wire money to someone you don’t know.
• Never click on links or attachments in emails from people you don’t know or you risk your computer becoming infected by viruses, trojans, or other malware.
Be aware of the prevalent scams in your area. Here is a sampling of current scams in our area:
• Grandparents Scam. A grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild, who claims to be in some type of trouble while traveling, such as being arrested, or in a car accident, or needing emergency car repairs. The caller asks the grandparent to immediately wire money to help them and keep it a secret from their parents. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor. A common theme is the caller’s request that funds be wired through Western Union or MoneyGram or that bank account routing numbers be provided. Wiring money is like sending cash, there are no protections for the sender.
• IRS Scam. There are several reports of telephone calls from people posing as IRS callers and stating that there is an arrest warrant for owed taxes. If you don’t owe taxes, report the incident.
• Real Estate Scam. Homes, which appear to be unoccupied, are being fraudulently sold by suspects posing as the homeowners to prospective buyers. Exchange of the home is being done at the prospective residence and no legal review of ownership is being done in advance. Be sure you are dealing with the actual owner or representative of property; consult with a legal professional or real estate agent first.
• Home Repair Scams. Be wary of door-to-door solicitations for home repairs. Obtain 2-3 estimates. Ask to see the contractor’s license and check on michigan.gov to be sure they are in fact licensed. Do not leave home repair workers alone in your home.
• Foreign Lottery Scams.
• Luxury Dream Vacation Offers/Winnings
• Investment Scams promising amazing profits.
• Charity Scams like the “Firefighters Scholarship Fund.” Often firefighters actually receive very little money from these scammers.
Be aware of how to handle a scammer once you have spotted one.
• Say no thank you, ask to be taken off their call list and hang up. Do not wait for their reply.
• Sometimes a polite no thank you is taken as an invitation to keep trying to persuade you – with this type of caller the best response is rudeness – just hang up.
• If all else fails, indicate that you are going to call the police. This approach should end the call rather quickly.
Make a complaint. Contact Michigan’s Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909, 517-373-1140, michigan.gov/ag or file the complaint directly online at this LINK, or the Federal Trade Commission, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261, or online.
Be aware of how to get off of the mailing lists and phone call lists. Before you become a victim, get off of as many phone/mailing lists as possible.
• Sign up for the national “do not call” registry. It’s free. Call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register or register online at donotcall.gov.
• To opt out on having your name included on lists used by creditors or insurers to make unsolicited offers of credit or insurance (“Firm Offers”) to you, go to optoutprescreen.com and click the button to Opt Out or call 1-888-567-8688. By doing so, the consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion) are prevented from providing your credit file information for Firm Offers for five years. To Opt-Out permanently, you must mail a completed Permanent Opt-Out Election Form, which is available on the website.
• Meanwhile, until your name appears on the above do not call lists, whenever you receive a junk phone call, ask the person to place you on their “do not call list.”
• Opt out of having your personal information being shared [read that “sold”] by your bank, your credit card company, the phone company, etc.
• Do not provide personal information that is not necessary to the transaction you are engaged in. (For example – when a retailer asks you for your phone number or email address, say no thank you.)
For more information, email the attorneys at Fraser Trebilcock. Marlaine C. Teahan chairs the Trusts and Estates practice and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Melisa M.W. Mysliwiec can be contacted at email@example.com.