Top Ways To Protect Yourself From Online And Phone Scams

If you believe you are too astute or clever to fall for online or phone scams, think again. There are too many sophisticated and well-crafted ways to target you without your knowledge or understanding until after it happens.

How do online and phone scams work?
In a nutshell, all scams are con games to steal money from you. To gain access to your financial resources, online and phone scam artists target you by:

  • Creating fraudulent enterprises and encouraging you to invest your money, purchase real estate, or buy products through them.
  • Assuming a bogus identity and tricking you into paying with gift cards or transferring money into their untraceable accounts.
  • Enticing you to click onto attachments or open links designed to download the malware required to capture your personal identity and financial information.
  • Alerting you to nonexistent problems with your computer or online accounts and convincing you to let them resolve those issues by granting remote access to your computer.

For any con to work, the scam artists must solicit your trust by appearing to be reputable with legitimate opportunities and solutions. Specific to online or phone scams, the fraudsters will solicit your confidence without having any face-to-face interaction with you. They will attempt to manipulate you into doing their biding by exploiting your fears, generosity, passions, desires, naivete, and/or eagerness to please. Their tactics may appear to be innocuous; however, the results of giving them access to your valuable and personal data may cause catastrophic and irreputable damage to your finances, credit status, and standing with others.

How can you prevent falling prey to scam artists?
Your best line of defense is PREVENTION, so set yourself up for success with these six essential strategies.

(1)  Don’t answer the phone, respond to texts, open attachments, or reply to emails unless you can clearly verify their validity. You can easily get sucked into the skillfully executed rhetoric and threats of a scam artist if you do.

(2)  Be proactive when it comes to your security and financial wellbeing.

  • Let all unidentifiable phone calls go to voice message. You can immediately call the person back if the message is important.
  • Be leery of emails arriving from senders who use personalized mail domains like Gmail, Outlook, AOL, and Hotmail. Legitimate government agencies and businesses have their own email domain and company accounts. To determine the authenticity of a sender, hover your mouse over the “from” address. If the official domain has been tweaked in some way, you are being scammed.
  • Delete all suspicious emails from your inbox and empty them out of your delete box. As they may contain malware that can cause serious damage to your personal computer and network, permanently remove them.
  • Block texts on your cell phone that appear to be questionable.
  • While navigating the internet, you can infect your computer with malicious viruses by clicking onto unsolicited links or webpages. Surf with caution and access only reliable sites.

(3)  If you question the validity of a text, email, or voice message, do your research. Crosscheck with friends to get their opinions. When some form of money or payment is involved, consult with your financial institution or someone of authority. If you are threatened with financial irregularities involving any government or business accounts, use the contact information listed on their official websites to address your concerns.

(4) Be hesitant to give confidential information to anyone over the phone or via email.  You are fair game when data regarding your social security number, Medicare card, driver’s license, credit/debit card, banking accounts, passwords and other sensitive information get into the hands of the wrong people.

(5) Refuse to grant remote access to your computer when asked by someone you don’t know or trust.  Once you do, the person on the other end can easily misuse your banking and other online accounts and steal your identity.

(6) No matter how sincere and convincing the faceless individual on the receiving end of a phone, text, or email may seem, be distrustful. This is especially true when he or she attempts to persuade you to buy some goods or settle a payment via gift cards, cash, money grams, and wire transfers.

Very Important: If you have fallen victim to an online or phone scam, start by reporting it to your state consumer protection office at: CLICK HERE and get professional help to clean up any malicious malware that might have infected your digital devices. Specific to phone or cyber crimes, it is highly unlikely that the perpetrator will ever be brought to justice. For the most part, learn from the experience, cut your losses, and move on.

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A.  in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University  and on the Board for LEARN Idaho.  Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging.  As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.