November 12, 2016
By Frank Marano
“It won’t happen to me!”
“I’m smarter than that.”
“I won’t fall for that.”
These are some of the things I hear when I do my workshop on scams. But then why did more than 100 million people fall into the hands of money scams and identity theft last year?
Here are some of the scams you should be aware of:
The Computer Scam
Scenario: While you’re online, your computer gets infected with a virus. A message appears on your screen telling you to call and pay to have the virus removed. What’s difficult about this scam is that sometimes it’s almost impossible to remove the virus without paying the fee.
Over the years, this scam has evolved into a more sophisticated one. A computer specialist will call you and tell you that you have been affected. They are from a well-known service and are calling to help. They gain your trust and access to your computer. At this time, they help remove the virus for free! You’re so relieved that it takes many months before you realize your identity has been stolen.
Fact: It’s extremely rare that a representative would ever call you to alert you of a potential virus.
What to do: Never give anyone remote access to your computer. Should you suspect your computer has received a virus, hire a local repair service to address the problem.
IRS/Collection Agency Scam
Scenario: An IRS agent calls you several times stating that you owe back taxes, and if you call back immediately, they will try to help you.
Fact: Most government agencies WILL NOT contact you by phone, especially the IRS.
What to do: If you feel like you have been rightfully contacted, seek out the official government contact information, compare it to the info provided to you (it probably won’t match), and call the 1-800 number or direct line found on an official government (.gov) site.
Scenario: There’s a knock on the door. The person is a contractor who just finished a job down the road and has extra materials he is willing to let you have at a very low cost.
Fact: The contractor is still a stranger and could rifle through your belongings to find sensitive information should you let them in.
What to do: Before you entertain this idea, ask for their business card or information. Then, ask which neighbor they just did work for and tell them you will need to verify and/or ask if they were satisfied.
Scenario: Someone calls and tells you they are sending you a new insurance card. They will need your personal information.
Fact: Medicare will not call you; your insurance company already has your info.
What to do: Take down their information and tell them you will call back. Check your Medicare and insurance statements for the 1-800 number or other contact info so you can contact them directly to notify them of the call. Most likely, the call did not come from their offices.
Scenario: Your insurance salesman pushes a plan on you or discourages you from another plan. You wind up selecting a plan that isn’t suited to you and pay much more than you should for coverage you don’t need.
Fact: Insurance agents should show you all the pros and cons of the plans they are presenting and never discourage you from plans they are not licensed to discuss.
What to do: Always ask if there is another plan that may be better for you and watch for scare tactics or pushy salespeople. Also keep in mind that it isn’t always best to purchase or consider a plan based solely on price but on the benefits you need to fit your health and potential out-of-pocket cost.