My home office has a program to help protect our company from fraud. They regularly send phony “scam” emails to all advisors, trying to trick them into falling for them. If we do, we joke about having to wear the “cone of shame” for our error. The effort has successfully trained us to question everything that hits our inbox.
A current real scam in my email took a twist that is uniquely dangerous. I received very realistic notice from “Amazon” telling me that the expensive phone I purchased had been delivered to my home in Florida. I did not order a phone, nor do I have a Florida home. It gave a phone number to call if I had any questions. Since it didn’t ask me to click on anything, my initial reaction was to call the number. I thought better of it and went to Amazon directly from my app and confirmed no such order had been placed. Had I called that number I am sure I would have encountered a master scam artist that would outmatch any timeshare salesman.
In another personal incident just this week, I was in a store parking lot when a man pulled up in a very expensive vehicle. He opened the passenger window where a young boy was sitting. The man wore what appeared to be expensive gold jewelry. He said he was a foreigner and had lost his wallet and passport and needed $300 to get a new one. He pulled a big ring off his finger and offered it to me for the cash so he could get home. Before he went on, I responded with a firm “no” and turned away, which led to the man yelling at me for not being willing to help.
It’s difficult to turn down requests from others in need. Criminals take advantage of this so if you want to be charitable, it’s best to do so using legitimate organizations and refer people in need to those as well. On the other hand, if his fake gold ring brings out the greed in you, maybe losing $300 will be a good lesson.
Some of the red flags that should alert to potential scammers are: First, if money is involved. Second, when the calls, emails or requests are unsolicited. Third, if someone or something is using emotions to rush you into a decision.
In all these situations, if you are in doubt, hang up, hit delete or walk away, and then go to the real source to find the truth. Find the website, email address or phone number using your own resources, not the ones you are given.
There is currently a growing wave of scams, and we must be always on our guard. Criminals are clever and they know what we watch for, so they keep changing the approach. If we follow a few simple steps, we can usually avoid being taken. If ever in doubt, our office offers a free fraud service, and we will also alert others to the risk.