One of the most concerning problems these days is scams, whether by email, text or telephone. Not only are most people bombarded by robocalls and junk email, they are also the prey of scam artists seeking to steal their identities or their assets.
Messages through the various communications channels appear to come from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the FBI, banks, credit card companies, those who would have you believe they are friends, royalty from Nigeria and other countries, and even Facebook.
None of the government agencies will contact you in this fashion. If they need to be in touch with you, they will do so through the U.S. mail.
In all cases, these messages are seeking your personal information. Email messages of this sort always have a link to click on that theoretically will provide you with additional information about the ostensible topic being addressed. The reality, however, is that it usually provides an opening for some version of malware (malicious software) intended to steal data and damage or destroy your computers and computer systems.
Malware can do a number of evil things. It will give access to your contact list, your personal information for financial websites, your passwords, and even your Social Security number. It may even prevent access to your computer by encrypting your files. When this happens, your only option will be to pay a ransom fee, typically quite substantial, to regain access.
Evil emails should be deleted immediately. Then go to your Trash folder and delete them from there as well.
One of the more egregious scams I’d heard of was a contact from a source that informed me of a close friend traveling abroad who had lost his wallet and needed an immediate infusion of funds. Not surprisingly, the message asked me to forward my credit card number to provide assistance.
What to do when you receive a scam message or phone call? If it’s a phone call, unless you are absolutely, positively sure of whom you are speaking with, hang up. If you don’t, the caller will probably ask one or more questions, hoping to prompt you to answer at least one with the word Yes. When you do, they will record the Yes and then use it to answer a question such as: “Do you agree to . . .”, which illustrates one downside of today’s technology.
Sometimes these calls will tell you to press a certain number to be removed from their calling lists. Ignore that and just hang up.
N. Russell Wayne, CFP®
Any questions? Please contact me at email@example.com.