Since the beginning of humanity, there have always been people that didn't mind taking advantage of others. But now that we have cell phones, the internet, and social media, scammers are just about everywhere you look. Some scams are fairly easy to see through, while others are much more elaborate. Many of them are incredibly skilled at what they do and have resources at their disposal to make their scams seem even more realistic. Either way, scammers all have one goal: To con you into giving them your hard-earned money. Here are ways for you to protect yourself against these scammers.
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Common sense is your best defense. Unfortunately, I am more of a book smarts person, so this may be why I fell for a scam. If it seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is. Try to imagine an in-person conversation: would some random stranger walk up to you on the street and offer you a large sum of money in exchange for a gift card? Is a 21-year-old model going to profess her undying love for you out of nowhere, especially if you're an older man? These seem ridiculous saying them, but they're exactly the types of scenarios scammers use online with the anonymity of the internet to hide behind.
Use extreme caution when communicating with people you don't personally know. For many of you I am one of those people. I am pretty easy to verify online through social media, licensing board and reviews luckily. Now, many people enjoy making friends online, but it's in your best interest to be cautious about how close of friends you become, or how many details about your life you reveal. Scammers prey on loneliness, vulnerability, and emotions, and use the anonymity of the internet to get away with it. If you want to meet new people, explore options for doing so in person. Great places to meet new people in Cherokee Village include bowling alley, dart league at both Copper Feather and Elks club, or joining one of the many clubs we have from gems to arts.
Don't open emails unless you are certain you know and trust the sender! This is almost impossible for me because I regularly get emails from new clients or customers. Please don't be offended when you send me a pdf of the houses you want to see. I won't open it because I don't know you either. Emails can contain viruses, malware, trojans, and other such programs that can allow scammers to steal your personal information from your computer or phone. If the sender is someone you don't recognize, or if anything looks or seems suspicious, don't open the email. Email scammers can change the slightest thing in an email address to make you believe it is legit so make sure to notice those details. And I will not likely try to sell property to the Crown Prince of South Africa!
Don't fall for scare tactics. As mentioned before, scammers prey on loneliness, vulnerability, and emotions. Many try to scare you into doing what they want by threatening to have you arrested for a crime you have no knowledge of, lawsuits for things they accuse you of, or sending your personal information (they claim they have) to your contacts (which they claim they have). Do not encourage these people, whether it comes in email, text message, or phone. This is how I got scammed (jury duty-red flags-luckily less than more). Remember official organizations don't demand immediate payment, nor payment through gift cards!
I was scammed a few years ago because of jury duty. I had been called to served but got a notification it was cancelled. Later that week, I received a call from the "Sherriff's department" stating there was a warrant out for my arrest because I didn't show up. Unfortunately, I fell for it and ended up giving them hundreds of dollars for my "bail." I should've seen the red flags: they called me Laura Sackett Clute which I only use in business; the county I served for jury duty would know me as Laura Clute. Secondly, they were calling about Independence County and I live and was called to serve jury duty in Sharp County. They pretended like my first payment didn't go through and tried to get me to pay AGAIN. Luckily, Wal-mart in Batesville had been trained to not sell me the gift cards and I didn't give them any more money. I was on the phone with them for over 4 hours, drove an hour away to get to their drop off and locked my keys in the car in the process. Call me gullible, but in the moment, I followed their instructions, simply due to fear and not being in the situation before. I know now if I had a warrant out for arrest and they did call me, they would tell me to turn myself in, not pay by GIFT CARD! Secondly, I would be allowed to notify anyone of this including family or a lawyer, instead of not being allowed to call or text anyone. They play on your fears and the less you know the better for them. So make yourself educated and learn from my mistakes!
Don't give out personal or financial information on the phone, on the internet, or even through the mail unless you are absolutely certain of what you're doing and why. A legitimate company will understand the need to protect personal information; a scammer will try to pry it out of you. I try to never give out my date of birth or social security number. Often when filling out forms I used a modified birthdate combining my/daughter/husbands to most people who don't really need but ask for it for marketing purposes. There are very few people who need your social security number, like when filling out loan forms or employment forms. This also applies when getting wire instructions for closing on a home or property. Make sure you verify with the source you are paying funds to the correct information before wiring your funds. Wire instructions should not be emailed but can be faxed or provided by phone.
Use a different password for your email than your other accounts. If a hacker gets his hands on your Facebook password and it happens to be the same as your email password - that you most likely use to log in to Facebook with - that hacker will also have access to your email and can then easily break into your other accounts. Ideally, you should have a different password for EVERY account you use. I personally use a password keeper and i only have to remember one password. This makes it much harder for anyone to hack into any of my accounts, and it is accessed by an email I rarely use, which makes it even less likely to be hacked. There are other methods for using unique passwords, like having a base password and then adding customizations for different accounts. The worst thing you can do is have your computer memorize your passwords and not have a lock on your computer. This is often how scammers start working on buyers or sellers to get their wired funds. This is why it is important to get your wire instructions directly from the receiving title company. It has happened all too often where a buyer wires and loses their money to buy a home through agent or their own hacked email.
Scams with real estate involved are all too often seen. Other than wire fraud, there are also scams with rental properties. Both homeowner and renter can be scammed by someone appearing to rent out a home. As a renter, they could take your deposit and first months' rent and never give you access. As landlord, your rent proceeds could be used for repairs not on your property or fictious repairs for a "property manager" to pocket instead. It is important to visit a property in person or get a virtual viewing of the property as a renter. As a landlord, make sure you are using a company you trust or real estate agents who report to the real estate commission to ensure your property is taken care of. This is also why it is usually recommended to not own rental property too far from where you live.
If you have a friend or relative that's tech-savvy, you can always ask them for help. Personally, I have my 20-year-old son who I call on for all technical difficulties (he's the one who edits these videos). If you think something is a scam, it probably is. But it doesn't hurt to ask someone you trust what they think, and they may even be able to help you avoid future incidents as well. I am often called upon by others in my office to make this clarification, too. I generally error on the side of caution when it comes to my business.
If you are the friend or relative that's tech-savvy, help your less tech-savvy people out if they ask you questions, even if they seem silly to you. Thank you, Lucas for answering all my questions! You might help them avoid a negative outcome by simply pointing out something that they didn't realize might be a problem. You have more experience in this technology age and have more active brain cells then my generation! And trust me, someday you will be where I am now and will need to ask your kids for help too.
Make sure your children understand what a scam is, and how to avoid them. Even if they are the tech-savvy ones, there may be other scams they may fall for like giving out personal information or sharing too many details. There are plenty of people they may consider elders who do not have their best interests in mind. Know what your kids are doing on the internet and on their phones at all times. If your children are young, you can download a program like Screen Time (linked below) on their devices to monitor their activities while still giving them privacy. Elderly adults are also easy to take advantage of. There are plenty of scams where people pretend to be their grandchildren to take money or even "lock" up their computer to have them "fix it" and get money out of them. Make all your loved ones aware of potential evils.
We love our clients, and we want you to be safe out there! Check out our links in the description below for more information about how to stay safe and make sure to take precautions to protect yourself from scams. Since many scams also include selling foreclosed properties, check out this video, how to buy a foreclosure. See you again soon and have a blessed day!