Andy Fleming writing on how to avoid scams…
If you’re a retiree or approaching retirement, chances are you’ll soon become a high-profile target for scammers. Scams tend to target older customers, who grew up in an age where business and profit potential was based more on trust and reliability.
Between phone scams, door-to-door sales scams, and e-mail scams; there’s plenty of offers you should be wary of. Fortunately, if you learn to spot scams early and follow some simple rules, you’ll be significantly less vulnerable to exploitation. It’s not hard to stay safe as long as you keep your eyes and ears open and always ask questions if something seems out of place.
1. Beware of phone calls you do not initiate
Scammers that approach you over the phone are almost as frequent as email scams, although they can be harder to detect. You can mitigate this problem somewhat by registering your phone number(s) with the Do Not Call Registry. This should immediately reduce the volume of sales calls you receive.
The number one tip for avoiding phone sales scams is simple: never give out any personal information over the phone if the caller has contacted you first. Most phone scams come from people pretending to work for a legitimate company who’s services you already use. Let’s look at two examples:
Say you call Verizon or Comcast to dispute a charge on your card. The person you reach after calling the companies official number may ask you to confirm your identity by giving them your birthdate and/or e-mail address. In this case, it’s probably okay to give this information since you’ve contacted the company first using their official number.
However, if you receive a call from someone claiming to work for your cable or internet company, and they immediately ask you for personal information to confirm your identity, DON’T give it to them. Even if you think the call might be legitimate, say it’s a bad time and you’d like to call them back later. Then, contact the company via their official number and report the call you received. Remember, just because someone says they work for a certain company doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth. This applies to any company you may be registered with: cable, internet, utilities, insurance, etc.
2. Never give out your password
Companies that need to access details of your account to fix a problem or offer you discounts can do so without your password. If someone claims they need your password for any reason, it’s almost definitely a scam. This applies weather you’ve been contacted by phone or e-mail. No one working for a legitimate company will ever ask you for your password.
3. Check companies with the Better Business Bureau
Perhaps you’ve been approached about an offer that sounds legitimate and which you’d like to take advantage of. A company might offer you cheaper internet or cable services, or offer to reduce your utility costs through their program. Before agreeing to anything, always check unknown companies with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can quickly search the BBB for the name of the company that has approached you. If they’re on the phone, you might even want to put them on hold to check their legitimacy before talking to them.
4. Avoid offers that sound too good to be true
It might seem great to receive an e-mail or a call offering you a hefty rebate on your health insurance premium, or a refund of a bill you were accidentally overcharged on. Unfortunately, any offer or deal claiming to save or pay you money is probably a scam. We’ve probably all come across some form of the “Nigerian Prince e-mail scam”, in which someone claims to be a deposed member of foreign royalty who needs to dump millions of dollars into a stranger’s bank account for one reason or another. These scams sound ridiculous, but they’re exactly the same as your cable company contacting you because you overpaid last month and they need to refund you $100.
Always be wary of “free money” in any form. On that note, any time someone claims they can offer you a limited-time offer you need to take advantage of right away, you should probably back away. Often, door-to-door salesmen scammers will try to get cash from you as quickly as possible so they can immediately disappear. If someone is putting pressure on you to “act fast” or warning you that their offer won’t be available for long, there’s a good chance they’re trying to take advantage of you.
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