Financial scams seem be running rampant. A friend recently fell victim. Someone purporting to be her emailed her assistant asking for a wire from her personal account. The email looked just like my friend’s email. It wasn’t “spoofing” but really was from her email address. (Spoofing, I have learned, is when the email looks like it is from someone you know, but when you hover over the address with your mouse or pointer, the real underlying email appears.) Luckily the wire was not completed, but it easily could have been.
Remember to protect yourself. Take precautions. We often get in a hurry or are distracted and make poor decisions on how to respond. Be on the lookout for some of the following scenarios.
» A PayPal (or other account) notice indicating your account has been hacked. A message like this may read, “Please provide your information so we can verify your purchases/secure your account.” Don’t ever provide details.
Contact the provider, such as PayPal, directly with questions.
» A locked-up computer with a message on the screen to call a number to fix the “virus.” This one has gotten particularly tricky as a virus loaded onto the computer is indeed the culprit.
So most computer owners would need technical assistance to get the computer unlocked and the situation rectified.
Choose who has access to your computer wisely.
» A phone call about your credit card. Don’t ever give any details, including address, over the phone to an unverified source. End the call or don’t return the call to the number in a voicemail. Instead call the number on the back of your card to check on the status of your account.
» Providing payment for a service with a gift card. While this sounds particularly fishy, a surprising number of people fall victim as the individuals are quite smooth about justifying that type of payment.
» Helping a grandchild who calls needing money butdoes not want their parents to know. This is not specifically new, but it continues to be a rather commonscam that can easily be for thousands of dollars. This includes bailing out a “grandchild” who
calls and needs gift cards from a store to satisfy a debt. Just in the past couple of months we’ve heard about multiple grandparents who have fallen for this.
If you receive a call from a grandchild or child or anyone, for that matter, who says they need funds, take the time to call them back. Don’t just redial the phone. Use your own phone directory to make sure the person who called really is your grandchild or the intended recipient of your generosity.
There are new regulations in the state of Tennessee that allow banking institutions to take some additional steps to protect the assets of elderly and vulnerable adults. Check with your institution for their specific options.
A good rule of thumb is if you are suspicious at all, don’t do it. Directly contact the provider yourself. Keep your personal information private and think things through before automatically responding. There will always be a new way for thieves to take advantage, so stay vigilant.
Additionally, be aware for your loved ones, friends or neighbors who might be vulnerable. Look for ways to help them stay safe, too. As Audrey Hepburn said, “You have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
Sharon Pryse, chairman and founder of The Trust Company, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.