Scams Part 2: Smartphone and Computer Scams to Watch For
Technology is a wonderful tool and at times seems to help make life easier. That said, it can also make life more challenging and frustrating if you or a family member is not savvy about use.
One of the most current common scams is skimming. Con artists attach a device that is able to gather data from your debit or credit card. Right now, computer chip cards are somewhat more secure, but con artists still can often get information off the chipped card too. Then these scammers make purchases using your card information. The best way to protect yourself is to not use unattended free-standing ATMs, convenience store or gas station ATMs. If you are using a credit card to get gas make sure you get a receipt. Use ATMs at banks versus ATMs at other places. Another scam that is common uses hidden cameras. They are set up to record your debit pin number or card data. Always cover the pin pad when entering a pin number.
Again, we cannot stress how important it is not to answer texts, emails or phone calls that you do not recognize. When you don’t know who is seeking you out, check the email addresses to make sure the email is really from the known source like Apple. Often con artists send texts and emails saying there is a problem with your credit card. Do not respond and call your credit card company or bank to verify that this email /text is legitiment.
A very common scam is the forwarding of funny emails, chain letters bringing you luck that comes from friends. The trouble with these emails is that they often are phishing scams that can cause viruses. These types of emails can get personal information from your computer or attach cookies that allow vendors and hackers to bombard you with emails selling goods or getting personal information. Whatever you do don’t forward anything without taking out the previous email addresses. Better you or your friends not get forwarded jokes than getting malware on your device or sending a virus to all your friends.
Now we have to be careful with Facebook posts that are from unknown unverified or not reputable sites. The site may show you beautiful garden pictures, cute dog pictures or touching quotes. Do not press “like” or make a comment or send an emoji. Once the site has enough “likes”, comments, etc., it will then revert to some undesirable or offensive content that will go out to everyone in your Facebook address book. Then these fraudulent sites also try to sell you something that is nonexistent. Do not buy anything from any site that is soliciting you, whether online or on Facebook.
Ways you can protect yourself is to first make sure your Facebook privacy settings allow only friends to join your page. Second, think about pressing “like” or writing a comment. Never press like if you do not know the source that is sending you the picture, quote, etc. I have been guilty of doing this but have now stopped. Really – does it matter if you don’t press “like.” No! Third, do not accept friend invitations from anyone you do not know. Even if it says that the person shares or knows other friends.
An additional scam that is common is ticket con artists, better known as scalpers who sell you fake tickets at a higher price to games, theater productions and concerts that you’re are eager to go see. There are some reputable sites like Stub Hub for those hard to get seats to a game or other event. The best practice is to buy your tickets directly from the venue, Ticketmaster or whoever is the legitimate main distributor of the tickets. An example would be going to a Bronco game or theater, go directly to the Bronco’s box office or Denver Center or Performing Arts ticket office. Although there are reputable ticket brokers like Stub Hub and others they always tell you they are not responsible if tickets are fake.
The scariest scam is Ransomware. This occurs when you open a phony link or email that appears at first to be from a friend. Again, always check that email address! Also, do not click on links without verifying the source. Unfortunately, if you do this, hackers are able to immobilize all your files and then will demand a ransom to get your files open and unable. Unfortunately, this is one of the most profitable and common acts of internet criminal behavior. The scammer usually asks for an amount between $100 and $1000.
Make sure you are up to date on your antivirus. Always backup your important data on a thumb drive, external hard drive or on the cloud. Check to see that all software updates are current. If you are attacked you will either spend a lot of money to get your files back or for a tech support person to assist you to deal with the Ransomware or both.
Technology is a tool and if you are not comfortable or smart about using it, you may be better off having a trusted friend or family member assist you. My rule is when in doubt don’t. Hackers and scammers prey upon everyone. They have gotten more sophisticated and sadly will continue to. Before using your smartphone, tablet or computer take a deep breath and remind yourself to be cautious and guarded about what you open or answer. If someone you know needs an answer immediately they will reach out by phone.
For more information on smartphone scams, check in on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website, Western Union Fraud website and/or pick up the June issue of Consumer Reports.