Phone Scams & Internet Scams : How to Protect Yourself

phone scamsEach year thousands of victims lose billions in sophisticated phone and internet scams. Scammers are using our obsession with technology to obtain personal information in an effort to convince you to give them your money. Here are some tips to recognize if you are being scammed and what to do in the event you are a victim of a scam.

Phone Scams

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans lose millions of dollars in telephone scams. Some scams play on your emotions and desires and scammers will say and do anything, and I mean anything to separate you from your money.

A friend of mine recently shared a story of an elderly family member who was scammed from someone in another country that called them in the middle of the night. This was a fairly sophisticated scam in that the scammer took the time to find out the name of the victim’s niece, probably from a Facebook account, and have a female accomplice pretend she was arrested and in Jail. The female impersonator said she needed money wired to an account for bail or they would not release her. She tearfully convinced the half-awake elderly victim to wire the funds since he was sure his niece would remain in jail if he didn’t. Many scammers scan social media accounts to locate their victims and learn daily habits and patterns of behavior that they can use to commit fraud.

Signs of a Phone Scam

Scammers are skilled at extracting information from their victims. Here are some signs that you are probably being scammed:

  • Investment provides high returns or offers guaranteed performance
  • You must make decision immediately
  • You must wire money to claim prize
  • You will receive a bonus for buying today
  • One Ring Wireless Phone Scam – Overseas scammers robo call your number and ring only once, tempting you to return the call which results in a fee.


What to Say to a Suspected Scammer

  • Where did you get my phone number and why are you calling?
  • What number are you calling from? May I call you back?
  • Ask caller for personal identifying information if you suspect someone is impersonating a friend or relative. (ie Where did we go for vacation last year?)
  • May I speak with your Supervisor? Ask Supervisor for the company’s business license number or investment broker license number.
  • Do you mind if I verify your offer with my attorney?
  • Has this investment been registered with my states securities regulator?


What to Do if You Believe You Have been Scammed

  • Call your bank immediately and give them as much information as possible about the suspected scammer
  • Monitor your bank accounts and credit card accounts closely and report any suspicious activity to your bank
  • Enroll in an Identity Theft Program
  • Register your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry



Email Scams

Perhaps the best know email scam is the Nigerian 419 Advance Fee Fraud scam in which $12.7 Billion was stolen from victims in 2013. I’m sure you’ve seen one of these emails in which you have been notified that you have won the lottery or have received a large inheritance.   These scams are called Nigerian 419 Scams because these types of email scams originated in Nigeria and 419 refers to the section of the Nigerian criminal Code dealing with fraud. According to Ultrascan, over 800,000 Nigeria 419 scammers operate in 69 countries globally with a significant number of them residing in Nigeria.

Most email scams are a version of phishing, emails sent with the goal of obtaining personal information such as name, social security number, and credit card and bank account numbers. Some emails are call to action emails which

The following are some suggestions to avoid being scammed by email:

  • Protect your computer by installing the latest anti-spyware, anti-virus, anti-spam programs and install a firewall on your home network.
  • Do not provide personal or financial information via email. Common scams ask you to reset an account password or update information by clicking on a link in the email.
  • Emails are designed to look like the real thing so to be safe visit your bank’s website directly to make any necessary changes or report suspicious emails.
  • Web Browsers such as Google Chrome have software to alert you to known phishing web sites that are trying to harvest account login information. Make sure you have the latest version of your browser installed or install anti-phishing software such as Norton Internet Security.
  • Lastly, monitor your financial accounts frequently. No one is immune from being a potential victim of fraud so guard your information, watch your accounts for unusual activity and report problems as soon as you are aware of them.


By asking the right questions and installing internet security software, you can reduce the chances that you will become a victim of a scam.

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