Scammers are targeting unsuspecting citizens with greater frequency - and increasing creativity. Crooks now threaten victims with everything from legal action involving the IRS to turning off power to your home. Or they pretend to help victims avoid complications with utility, cellphone, video streaming, bank or other accounts. But there is good news: Scams are being recognized and reported more often. And all it takes to thwart one is awareness and vigilance.
A FEW COMMON SCAMS - Staying alert and cautious every day can help you avoid these common scams.
The Utility Scam: An individual poses as an employee of your electric cooperative, telling you that your power will be turned off for nonpayment of your bill. The scammer says you can avoid disconnection by giving them money via a prepaid credit or debit card.
The Something-for-Nothing Scam: A con artist claims to represent a government program that helps pay utility bills. They say your bill can be paid with stimulus money; all you have to do is "verify" your bank account, credit card or Social Security number. No such government program exists. Sharing this information puts you at risk for identify theft and financial damage - and for electricity disconnection when the bill isn't actually paid by the bogus program.
The Netflix Scam: This email scam targets subscribers of the Netflix video streaming service, warning that their account is being canceled. The objective is to steal personal and credit card information. The professional-looking, personalized email often bears the subject line "Your suspension notification" and includes a link to a fake Netflix page, where you are required to enter your login information and credit card number.
AVOID BEING SCAMMED
Despite differing tactics, all scams share on objective: to get money or sensitive information from you. NEVER provide passwords or PINs, nor your Social Security, credit card, bank or other account numbers, unless you initiated the contact and trust the person with whom you are speaking. No legitimate business should ever contact you to ask for personal financial information.
AFTER A SCAM
If you suspect you've already been the target of a scam:
Be proactive. If you already have provided financial information to someone you later suspected as fraudulent, immediately contact your bank.
Report the incident. Notify the organization that the scammer claimed to represent, and the police. They might not be able to do anything, but every report helps build a body of information to identify and stop these scams in the future.
Do not fall for a "recovery" scam. Don't give anybody any more money on the promise that they will get your lost money back. It's just another scam.
Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not fall prey to scam.