Scammers are constantly thinking up ways to steal from you, so here are some things to look out for:
Ah, adulthood – that magical time when you discover how many people want to steal things from you. Ok, that’s probably not all adulthood is, but it certainly is a part of what we all face today in our greatly tech-connected world.
You may have heard of the Target store breach. It made the news recently because hackers got hold of credit card information of a staggering hundred million customers. Thanks, Target!
You can’t do much about how a company like Target protects your data, but there are smaller-scale scams from which you can protect yourself. Here are some of the ones being used right now…
The One Ring Scam
Ok, it will be hard to not make Lord of the Rings references, but I’ll do my best. According to the Better Business Bureau, the One Ring Scam is pretty simple. Your cell phone rings once, and you miss the call. You don’t recognize the number, and you are consumed with curiosity about who called.
So, you call back and are instantly charged a $19.95 fee on your monthly statement. Scammers – probably minions of the Dark Lord, Sauron – program computers to make that call to thousands of cell phones, knowing that a certain percentage will let their curiosity get the better of them.
The good news on this one is that the defense is simple. If you don’t recognize the number, don’t call back – especially if it is an international number or has the area code of Mordor.
The $9.84 Scam
The popular notion is that when someone steals credit card information, they immediately go out and spend a fortune, buying things like a solid gold machine that automatically feeds Twinkies to you without you needing to move off the couch (or maybe that’s just what I’d buy). It turns out that scammers are getting smarter, or they just don’t like Twinkies like I do; hence, the $9.84 scam.
Security experts say that some scammers are charging stolen credit card numbers for small amounts of money, and the name of the scam comes from the $9.84 that many recent victims were billed. The idea here is that the scammers are counting on cardholders not noticing smaller amounts on their statements. So, they steal a little from a lot of people with less chance of exposure.
You can probably guess what the fix is here…check your statement! If you do find a fraudulent $9.84 charge (or any small amount, for that matter), contact you credit card company immediately to get a new card.
This one has been around since the 80s, but it is still widely used because Phishing works Phantastically. You get an email from, say, your bank, asking you to click on a link….often for a “security check” or to “confirm your information.” You get taken to a site that looks exactly like your bank’s website, but it is actually a fraudulent site wearing a rubber nose and glasses.
At that point one of two things tend to happen. The bogus site might install Malware on your computer. It is a douche bag software that can do everything from allowing a hacker to access your computer remotely to stealing your credit card number as soon as you type it. More commonly, however, Phishers use a more low-tech approach. You are simply directed to fill in your bank account numbers, credit card number, address, etc., as part of this so-called “confirmation.” Yes, you are tricked into willingly handing your credit card to the bad guys. How wrong is that?
And, it really works. A couple in Florida was just busted for sending Phishing emails purporting to be from Wells Fargo and JP Morgan. They scammed 397 people of about $550,000. That is a LOT of Twinkies (ok, I have to stop writing when I’m hungry).
You can avoid Phishing scams by remembering one thing: Legitimate financial institutions and companies never ever ever ever ever…as in NEVER…ask for personal or financial information via email, text, or social media.
However, if you get an email you’re not sure is legit, definitely check it out; just make sure you do it the smart way. Do not follow any link or call any number in the email. Instead, go directly to the company’s website by typing in the URL directly or by using a bookmark you made yourself. If you want to talk to a human, use a number you already have or look one up.
These days you will almost certainly be targeted for a scam. The good news is that with a little wisdom and knowledge, you can avoid the most common ones.
Or, you can just send me your credit card number, and I can let you know if it’s been hacked. No, don’t thank me….glad to do it for you.