Photo credit: MarkGregory007 via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
We’re a trusting generation. We leave our computers and phones sitting on tables without password protection. However, I learned my lesson. No, my Smartphone wasn’t stolen, but it was unprotected. The worst part was, I did it myself. Let me explain. When I go for a walk and want to travel light, I put my Smartphone in my bra if I don’t have pockets. It’s easy to access and doesn’t get wet when I walk on the beach. I know you’ve heard of butt dialing, well I invented a new one; boob buying. I took a call on my phone and after the call ended, I put it back in my bra without turning off the screen. I have an app on my Smartphone for an online discount service that sends me alerts. My breast activated the website and bought the advertised product, which happened to be a cruise to the Bahamas. Not only did I have the alerts activated, I also had 3 credit cards stored in the app. If the company hadn’t sent me an email reporting the purchase, I’d be in the Caribbean in 2 weeks. I was also fortunate the website had a 24 hour cancellation policy. Although I feel incredibly stupid, I share this with you in hope that you don’t make the same mistake I did. Consider it a public service.
While it’s convenient to store credit cards on websites, make sure they’re password protected or don’t give the business permission to keep them on file. Also, don’t allow websites to sign you in automatically without a password unless you want others to see your information or interact with you. I’m always entering contests and joining groups to get discounts. Yes, I get an overabundance of junk mail. I’ve separate accounts for my blog, so this doesn’t interfere with those emails, but I end up blocking or deleting many messages on my personal account. I’ve set up filters, but they don’t block all of them. To avoid viruses and malware, I’ve installed AntiVirus software and don’t open a message from anyone I don’t know. You may want to be even more careful than I am.
People of our generation shared their experiences with me and I’d like to make you aware of how our generosity and trusting natures make us victims of theft and scams. I’ve talked about catfishing in a previous blog and how many scams originate in other countries, but we need to be on the lookout for con artists closer to home.
We were brought up in homes where the doors were never locked. Some of us still don’t lock our house or car doors. If your car is in the garage, thieves don’t know you’re home and think the coast is clear. Remember to lock those car doors too. Often it’s not just the car’s contents that’s stolen, the garage door opener can be used to open your garage and gain access to your house through an unlocked inside door. Make sure you have security lighting and an alarm even if it’s not connected to a monitoring site. The noise alone will drive off thieves or at least alert you, so you can get out or arm yourself if you’re so inclined.
A friend who owned a pick-up truck had the tailgate stolen from a well-lit hotel parking lot. Another warned my friends and me to take own registration out of our cars when we leave it in an airport parking lot. It contains our address and other information that can lead a thief right to our homes while we’re enjoying a vacation. Who wants to come back to a ransacked house and find their valuables missing?
If you use a GPS, don’t store your home address there. Put in another location close to where you live for navigation purposes. If you lose your Smartphone, you think an honest person will look at your contacts and call one to see if they can return your phone, but instead they may get your address and that of your friends. If the thief logs into Facebook, they may be able to track all of you and find out when someone goes out of town. You’ve just set them and yourself up to become victims, so use the security feature of your phone.
You can even be scammed at church. A friend shared how her congregation welcomed a young couple into their church and listened to them thank the Lord for allowing them to visit the beach. They said they’d driven there in a van with some money they’d saved for the trip. Now that money had run out, but they were still so happy they finally got their wish to see the seashore. The members of church dug into their pockets, gave them cash, and offered them a safe place to park. One single Boomer decided she should check out the young people’s story, so she called the police department and asked to have their license plates run. The car was stolen, so the police asked her to invite the couple out to dinner. She told the police where they could be found. They were apprehended and sent back to the state where they stole the car, but the trusting people were conned out of their hard earned money and had their faith in their fellow man tested.
As Baby Boomers, we’re often targeted, because the world believes we have “accumulated wealth”. Look at the ads for wealth management services. Most of us aren’t rich, but we’re generous and naïve even though some of us have been bilked out of money by family and friends. Over the years we’ve become more cautious, because of these things and the news stories we see every day. However, we still continue to want to take care of our children, grandchildren, and the world. While this is laudable, we need to make sure we protect ourselves from the big bad wolves we learned about during our childhood. They’re still out there and even bigger, badder and smarter with more ways to get into our homes and lives through the internet.
Here’s some information on the most prevalent scams of 2016 taken from https://www.scamguard.com/. Single Baby Boomers often buy into these schemes to save money on merchandise, vacations, and pets, get work or pay bills. For more information or to report scams, go to their website
- Tech Support Scams-Reported countries: India and Pakistan. In many cases, scammers used U.S. VOIP phone numbers.
Damages reported: $100-$1000 and the cost of real technical support to fix the damaged computer. Since scammers usually ask for payment via credit card, many people have also reported having their identities stolen afterward.
Victims are told their computers are either already infected or about to become infected with malware that can cause significant damage, such as operating system corruption or identity theft. The “technicians” then urge users to allow them to have remote access to troubleshoot and fix related issues. Scammers use these opportunities to infect systems with malware, perform other damage or send users to third-party websites that cause damage. All of these actions are focused on the singular goal of giving scammers access to computers so they can cause errors and then charge for unnecessary repair services. (I looked on the website of a major computer company and found a printer repair technical assistance number. I called it and allowed them into my computer. Not only didn’t they fix it, they talked me into buying a computer protection program. Later when I had problems and called that company, I was told my protection program license number didn’t exist and I’d contacted a “yogi”. My credit card company helped me get most of my money back and the real computer company sent me a new printer. It took a lot of time and phone calls, but was worth it.)
ScamGuard advice: Never give anyone remote access to your computer. Instead, hire a local computer repair service whenever necessary.
- Fake/Counterfeit Merchandise Scams-Reported countries: China
Damages reported: $100-$1000
Scammers set up generic online stores that sell name brand items or mimic the websites of big name brand companies. On these sites, scammers sell fake or counterfeit products at significantly reduced prices designed to attract buyers looking for substantial savings. The over-reaching goal of these scammers is to gain access to the credit card numbers of their targets and then use the numbers to make fraudulent purchases or make a buck with the information on the black market. In some cases, the criminals even go so far as to send fake or counterfeit products to their prey. Like the scam above, the customer is asked for payment via credit card. Victims have also reported identity theft at a later time.
ScamGuard advice: To verify the identity of a website in question, always contact the real brand company using the phone number on the company’s official Contact Us or similar page.
- House/Vacation Property Rental Scams-Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $500-$3000+
After the housing market scandals of the last few years, many consumers have opted to rent home and vacation properties and scammers have targeted this trend. Scammers advertise properties they don’t own on classified ads websites, such as Craigslist and Backpage, with attractive pictures and detailed descriptions. All payments are requested via non-returnable methods like Moneygram, Western Union, Vanilla and wire transfer.
- Pets-for-Sale Scams-Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $200-$2000
Pets-for-sale scammers create fake websites that claim to be associated with pet adoption or animal nurseries. Some sites even offer free puppies to attract pet lovers. Victims are told they must pay for at least the insurance, shipping, and other services associated with processing and delivering the pets. Again they ask you to pay with non-returnable methods. (When this happened to a friend, she asked to come and see the pet. The scammer said they’d moved to another state.)
ScamGuard advice: The last two scams can be avoided if you always pay for everything using a check or a credit card which leave paper and electronic trails that law enforcement agencies can track back to criminals. In addition, the card’s issuing bank can perform a transaction chargeback or reversal for up to usually the first six months after the transaction.
- Timeshare Resale Scams-Reported countries: USA, India
Damages reported: $200-$3000+
“Don’t have the time or money to invest in your timeshare any longer? Need someone to take it off your hands? We have the perfect buyer for you!” These lines are what scammers want you to believe. Timeshare resale scammers tell their targets they have buyers, or in some cases renters, ready to take over any timeshare at a moment’s notice. The scam? They require an upfront fee to move forward with the process. Timeshare resale scammers give a wide range of reasons for the fee. (I’m ashamed to say I fell for this one with no positive results. Timeshare companies now warn owners about these companies and report they try to prosecute them. However, they also make it almost impossible for you to sell your timeshare even if you find a legitimate buyer on your own. I’m waiting for the time when they offer to buy my timeshare back. I know. I’m a dreamer.)
ScamGuard advice: Never pay upfront fees to anyone promising to sell or rent your timeshare or refer you to buyers or renters. Instead, list your timeshare on free or minimum payment timeshare listings websites.
- Work from Home – Inspecting and Shipping Merchandise-Reported countries: Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe
Damages reported: Loss of funds for variable amounts. If not reported to authorities immediately, victims can suffer legal consequences if believed to be part of any criminal activities related to product sales or shipping.
Scammers set up professional-looking websites and claim the sites are owned by shipping and logistics intermediaries. Some also set up sites to state that they can offer these work-at-home opportunities because they represent large merchant companies in the U.S. that don’t have international shipping services. They use job search website ads to attract or target their prey using job board profiles and go through the interview process with each applicant, usually via an Internet communications application like Yahoo Messenger. They then offer a job to every single person they interviewed. Once they’ve “hired” their virtual workers, scammers use stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise and then ship it to their new work-at-home “employees” with instructions on how to open the packages, inspect the merchandise and ship it elsewhere. About a week later, the scammers cut all ties with their recent batch of employees or go a step further and attempt to scam them with fraudulent paychecks made out for amounts much greater than the compensation for time worked. Victims are advised to deposit their checks and use the overpayment amount to perform a bank transfer of the funds to people who supposedly weren’t paid for some type of service, such as document verification or office supplies. The check bounces and “employees” find not only have they worked for free, but they’ve also lost extra money.
ScamGuard advice: Never agree to receive and ship packages from home or refund money from a paycheck as a bank transfer. Ask the company to re-issue the check for the correct amount.
- Payday Loan Scams-Reported countries: India, Pakistan
Damages reported: $500 – $3000+
These scams rely on legitimate leads gathered by payday loan affiliate website companies or advertising agencies who use cleverly designed small websites to entice consumers with bad debt to apply for payday loans. Once the information is gathered, they sell it to other companies. If a scamming company, posing as a legitimate company, gains access to it they tell applicants they qualify for low interest loans they can also can get immediately with payment of a processing- or security-related fee. Scammers request upfront money through cash-like payment methods or wire transfer and then never follow through with any sort of loans. Sometimes these criminals also ask for the bank account details. They claim they need the information to direct deposit the approved payday loan amount, but in reality they take the information to steal from the accounts later or to sell it to those who will use it to steal.
ScamGuard advice: Never pay any upfront fees to anyone promising a loan over the phone.
My advice: Guard your credit cards and credit rating as if they were your children. Also, go ALL in. Use Alarms, Lights, and Locks.
If you have any tales of dastardly deeds or advice on how to avoid being a chump, please let my readers know here or on my Facebook Page, “Single Boomer Life”. To get there; click on the Facebook icon at the top of my website.
Continue the adventure!