MARQUETTE — We’ve all experienced it. Maybe it’s a call informing you you’ve got a family member in jail who urgently needs money for bail, or an email stating you’ve won a prize and all you need to do is enter your credit card number for shipping fees.
“Nothing is considered off the charts for scammers as far as what they can do, it’s just whatever gets them your money at the end of the day,” Lake Superior Life Care & Hospice’s Community Outreach Liaison Jamie Barbiere said.
Lake Superior Life Care & Hospice held a presentation about cybersecurity at Mill Creek Assisted Living Facility on March 17, warning of the dangers scammers try to get away with.
There are many different ways scammers try to extort money from unsuspecting victims. One of the more popular ways is by telephone. Sometimes scammers will pretend to be a loved one calling to tell you they need money right away to be bailed out of jail, or tell you a loved one needs money right away. They often create a sense of urgency when scamming.
“They do that because we make irrational decisions when we feel that there’s pressure,” Barbiere said.
Barbiere advised to never give any personal information over the phone. Always ask who is calling when you get a phone call. If someone calls you and claims to be family, tell them you’ll call them back at a more convenient time. To get off the phone you can make up a lie, something like you’re just headed out the door, and tell them you will call them back. Then, call a family member to verify if that supposed family member does need help.
“Whether over the phone, or online, seniors need to have the fortitude to end the conversation abruptly with telemarketers and scammers,” Marquette Police Department Detective Sgt. Mike Archocosky said in an email to The Mining Journal. “Carrying on the conversation to be polite only gives the suspect more opportunity to convince, coerce and persuade.”
To help deter scam calls, you can put your phone number on the national do not call registry that is managed by the Federal Trade Commission. Visit www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222.
Scammers will often ask for payment in the form of a gift card, because they are untraceable. Once the gift card number is given to them, that money on the card is all theirs.
“If any government agency ever calls or sends a message asking you to use gift cards, iTunes cards, or any other prepaid card to pay off an outstanding warrant, a tax bill, or other expense, it is a scam,” Archocosky said.
Scamming isn’t just limited to phone calls, as online scamming is also popular. This may be done via email, or social media.
Scammers will go online and try to gather as much data as they can about your personal information, and use that knowledge either for or against you when they reach out to you. Barbiere recommended Googling yourself to see what, if any, personal information of yours is on the web.
With so many forms of social media today, scammers have many opportunities to prey on unsuspecting individuals.
“Be skeptical about Facebook friends who send you links to click on, especially if haven’t spoken to an acquaintance in a while,” Archocosky said. “Contact that friend by another means, like phone, or another messaging application, to ask if he/she sent a link.”
He recommends securing all your online accounts with strong passwords, and using a different password for each log in. Also, avoid using passwords with obvious information, such as your name, address, or birth date.
When it comes to using your credit card online, there are several ways to make sure you’re being cautious.
“Don’t email your credit card information to someone from whom you’re trying to make an online purchase through a legitimate website. There should be other options for secure checkout, PayPal, or another third-party payer,” Archocosky explained.
He added another tip for online payments.
“Use a credit card solely for online transactions, and a different one for in-person transactions,” he said. “If fraud is detected on one or the other, you’ll immediately have an idea about how the suspect accessed the card.”
Emails can contain links that scammers want you to click on to “claim a reward”. Barbiere advises to look at the sender’s full email address. If the email address looks suspicious, or the name of the company is a bit off, it’s probably a scam email. You can then mark these emails as spam and block them.
“Another popular scam is to make you think that you’ve won a sweepstakes or that you’ve inherited money from a distant relative you never knew you had, or that a prince from a distant country needs to send you money to keep for him. Don’t open these suspicious emails, don’t click on links within emails, and don’t send any money,” Archocosky said.
Scammers aren’t just online, as door-to-door scams also exist. This can happen when someone shows up at your door asking to do a job for you, such as shoveling snow off your roof. They will request full payment in advance, then never show up to do the job.
“Always partially pay. Don’t fully pay for jobs that you’re having people come to your house for. You can just pay a percentage,” Barbiere said.
No matter what form of communication you’re using to talk to someone, always verify that person’s identity. Do not ever feel pressured to do anything when you’re not sure who you’re talking to. “We don’t want to make everyone paranoid, but at the end of the day the take away is that it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Barbiere said.
Archocosky and Barbiere both shared a key piece of advice: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Taylor Johnson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.