Tips for Avoiding Phone and Internet Fraud
21-Jan-2012 | News-Press Release
Boise, ID (prsafe ) January 17, 2012 - As Boise private detectives, we get a lot of calls about internet fraud, stories that usually happen like this: You're just sitting at home, enjoying a nice relaxing afternoon, when the phone rings. You pick it up, and a cheerful-sounding young man informs you that you're a grand finalist in a sweepstakes, and he needs a small processing fee to send you to the next level. You don't want to pay anything, but the man insists that the small fee of a few thousand dollars will be more than paid for when you win $500,000. Or perhaps you receive an email from a charity you've seen commercials for, asking you for a donation. Because the cause is extremely important to you, there is no hesitation in giving out your credit card number. A few months later, you check your bank records, and discover that strange transactions have taken place without your knowledge, or that your bank account is totally empty.
Reading that paragraph, you may think "I'd never fall for something like that," or even
"Why would somebody want to steal MY information?" The fact remains that hundreds of people are exploited in phone and email scams like this every day. Scammers target the fundamental human vulnerability: trust in others. Most people want to believe that other people are good at heart, and this is precisely why they are at risk.
But just how do scammers get your phone number or email address in the first place?
Consider the sweepstakes scam: At one point in your life, you may have entered a legitimate sweepstakes, either by phone or over the internet. Or perhaps you may have signed up for a mailing list on a website, by simply filling out a few items in an online form and going about your day.
You may not realize it, but there is a good chance that your contact information (name, email address, phone number, and sometimes far more personal information) was placed into a database, and that information was probably sold to a company called a "targeted mailing list provider." These companies sell their lists to anybody willing to pay, including scammers. These lists can contain your address, income bracket, age, children's' age, ethnicity, education, homeowner status, and much more; all information that makes you susceptible to exploitation.
In the hands of a talented con artist, this information can be used to custom-tailor a scam that appeals to a person on a very personal, individual level, and it is very hard to resist. ListsAreUs advertises their "Grandparents" list by directly stating that the elderly "love to spoil their grandchildren and are a very receptive audience... they have money to spend, and are willing to spend it." This is the kind of information that the bad guys have at their fingertips every moment.
So how do you protect yourself from these threats? The most effective method is also the simplest: don't enter contests or subscribe to mailing lists. Just once is enough to get your name on a marketing list, which can mean everything from email spam to phone calls and more. The more you enter, the more lists you end up on, so just avoid entering and you'll stay private.
Also, always keep the philosophy of minimum disclosure in mind. Only reveal the absolute minimum about yourself online and over the phone; never give out more information than you absolutely have to. Make a designated email address only for online shopping separate from your main account. Never give out any financial information to any individuals who contact you directly.
If there is a specific charity you would like to give to, contact them directly. Don't let them call you - call them first! All legitimate charities have websites and contact information available online. Do some independent research first from third-party websites, make sure they are truly a legitimate charity, and contact them.
Above all else, do your own research. Don't trust what a company is saying about itself - look online and see what other people have to say. Legitimate companies build a positive reputation, while con artists develop a different kind of reputation. It is essential to always verify the identity of every charity you donate to and every e-commerce website you shop on. Anybody can claim to represent any organization over the phone or internet; the person calling from
Charity X might just be working for Criminal Organization Y and you'd be none the wiser.
Spend a few minutes reading the history of organizations you aren't familiar with, and you'll be much safer in the long run.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can minimize the risk to yourself, your identity, and your bank accounts, while still enjoying the conveniences offered by modern communication technology.
Custer Agency is a Private Investigator in Idaho. Custer Agency, Inc. has been providing a broad range of Private Investigation, Computer Forensics and Security Services to Idaho law firms, businesses, insurance companies, government agencies, and individuals since 1995.
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