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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Scam Alert! Protecting Yourself and Your Finances

Scam Alert! Protecting Yourself and Your Finances
By Mike Kalas, Steve Richardson, Joe Lamoglia and Tim Shean

The number of stories about fraudsters taking advantage of unsuspecting victims seems to grow by the day. Of course, it’s easy to think, “This will never happen to me!” But to keep your money and personal information safe, it’s vital to stay abreast of the latest scams.

Coronavirus Email Scams Spreading
We’ve all read the headlines about the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this serious health threat has presented an opportunity for those hoping to profit from the growing fears surrounding the virus.

Although there are a few coronavirus scams, one of the most insidious has been fake emails that look like they’re from the World Health Organization (WHO) or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At first glance, these emails look legitimate. Some even include “safety measures” and feature the WHO or CDC logo. So, what gives them away as phishing attempts?

•    Contain spelling and/or grammatical errors
•    Request your email address and password
•    Ask for a donation (sometimes via bitcoin)
•    Include instructions to click on suspicious links or open attachments

How to protect yourself. It’s important to know that the CDC and WHO would not ask for your login credentials. Further, best practice is to never click on a link from an unknown source, as scammers use these links to download viruses on to your computer. Finally, if you’re looking for facts on the coronavirus, go directly to the CDC or WHO website. That way, you won’t put your personal information in the wrong hands.

The Phony Lotto Phone Call
Imagine answering the phone and the caller delivering the best news ever: you’ve won the lottery! It sounds too good to be true—and, sadly, it likely is. What’s the giveaway? To get the prize money, you must first send in a small amount of money, perhaps to pay lawyer’s fees or taxes. Over time, the requests for your money will continue, growing larger and larger. Another red flag is that the caller may ask to keep the conversation “confidential” until your winnings have been formally announced.

How to protect yourself. Many individuals (particularly seniors) have fallen for this scam. Before they realize their grand prize is never coming, they’ve lost thousands of dollars. Bottom line? If someone calls you claiming to be from the lottery and asks for money, hang up! If you suspect you’re being scammed, you may also reach out to your local police department for help.

The Romance Scam

Here’s a heartbreaking statistic for those looking for love online: Americans lost $201 million in online romance scams in 2019. How did this happen?

Generally, fraudsters create fake profiles on popular dating apps or social media to connect with their victims. Many will claim to be working abroad, in the military, on an oil rig, or as a doctor embedded in an international group. Whatever their supposed situation, it eliminates the chance of face-to-face contact.

To establish trust with their victims, these scammers will communicate frequently. Once they feel the online relationship is secure, their true motive emerges: getting your money. Different reasons will be given for needing funds, including airfare, medical bills, or travel visas. Plus, they’ll likely ask for this money in the form of gift cards. Why? Gift cards can easily be turned into cash, they allow the recipient to remain anonymous, and the transaction is difficult to reverse.

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