GUEST POST from Don: Avoiding Scams

AVOIDING SCAMS

There is nothing easier than avoiding a scam at any age.  All it takes is ONE LIFE RULE.  This is not  complicated.

RULE ONE:  BELIEVE NOTHING.

Wasn’t that simple?

Adriana Morga wrote an article for AP: “How to talk to older people in your life about scams.”
She wrote, “This summer, Daniel Goldstein’s 86-year-old mom got an email that looked like it was from her bank. She was alarmed because she hadn’t spent the money it mentioned, so she called a help number on the email. The person on the other end of the line asked for her bank account information and made her believe she would get her money back. Instead, she lost $600 to a scammer.”

If  you pay attention, there is an article almost every week on scams and how to SPOT them.  Let me be clear: You don’t need to spot them.  Scammers want you to trust them.  Just practice disbelief, especially when you are greedy or fearful.

-You get a text from “your” bank.  Don’t believe it.  Call the bank if you want (from the number provided on last month’s balance statement), but otherwise do nothing.
-You get an email from the IRS.  Don’t believe it.  Wait for a letter to arrive from the IRS (They never send emails, texts, or make phone calls without first sending a letter).
-You get a letter claiming that your warranty is about to expire.  Don’t believe it.  Call your warranty company (from the number on the last invoice) if you want, but otherwise do nothing.
-You get a call from a nephew claiming he needs money for bail.  Don’t believe it.  Call the kid’s parents to find out the scoop before you decide to do anything.  Better yet, it is their problem, let them handle it.

The scammer is hoping you will click on the link THEY provided, call the number THEY provided, or send money to the address THEY provided.  DON’T.  Whatever THEY provided is likely fake.  Don’t believe it.  Go to the sources you trust.  The bank phone number in the phone directory, the email address included on your last invoice, the address given at the website (which you searched for separately from the fake info you received).  

The KEY is never believe what you are told without contacting the “true source” through a method YOU KNOW is correct.

Believe nothing.

RULE TWO is similar:  SAY “NO” to LINKS.  Never click on a link provided with an unexpected communication.
Out of the blue, my bank is wanting me to update my phone number?  The communication provides a  link.  NOPE!  If I imagine this is real, I still won’t use their link.  I can walk into any branch and take care of this.  Go back to RULE ONE:  Believe nothing.

When it comes to links, I’m wary.  I ask myself, “Do I need to do this?”  It is rare that I do.  Clicking on a link is convenient.  It can also be the worst thing you ever do.  Every month thousands of people find out the hard way.

RULE THREE:  SMALLER TARGET.  Avoid giving out your personal information whenever practical.  The fewer places which have your data…the fewer chances a hacker has to steal it.  I just received a notice from a health care provider that my information in their system was hacked.  In that case I had no choice, I was required to provide that info, and it was their responsibility to protect it (but failed).  Yet, how many times do we unthinkingly volunteer our data?

-Burger King wants you to download their app.  Nope.
-The hardware store wants your zip code when you check out.  Nope.
-Sign up for an instant discount.  Nope.
-A chance to win.  Nope.
-An online survey.  Nope.

“Convenience is an open door to my data.”  (Say that aloud 3 times.)

It is easy to make yourself a smaller target.  To avoid scams the simple key words are:  Believe nothing.  Independently verify.  Eschew the convenience of links.

RULE FOUR: LESS.  Almost nothing personal on my phone and carry the least amount of stuff in my wallet.  Every item on your personal phone or in your wallet is another opportunity for theft.  Carry the necessary.    

-Contacts.  Instead of listing EVERY contact in your phone, keep the list smaller.  The three people who call you the most … you’ve got a brain … maybe you can remember their numbers (unlike me).  Those  you haven’t heard from in years … delete them (write their numbers in an address book).  (BTW – my closest contacts are just a single letter in my phone.  I seldom include last names.)  
-Text messages and call logs.  Do you need a list of calls from two weeks ago?  I delete call and text logs regularly.  
-Banking apps and bill pay apps.  Nope!  If I use them at all they will be on my home-only device.
-Other apps.  Clearly most people don’t need as many as they have.  One music.  One news.  One map.  Etc.  Learn to live with the best of fewer.  
-Credit/Debit/Bank Cards.  Carry only two.  Rotate to keep them active, if you like.
-Memberships and IDs.  Yes, you need your license, plus gym and library cards.  Leave stuff out of your wallet you don’t use.  I no longer need my pest control license (retired) so it is gone.
-Email on your phone.  (I don’t.  Email does not demand instant attention.)  

The idea is that if you lose your phone, wallet, or purse you won’t lose everything you have.  BTW it is a good idea to make copies of all your cards and identifications and keep the copy in your home safe.  

Disbelief is your friend.

Copyright 2023 Donald Whelpley

[PLEASE NOTE that Don is always open to discussing the thoughts and opinions he shares here and welcomes comments as shared in the comment section. He doesn’t use other social media platforms and won’t see whatever you’d like to share with him if you post it elsewhere. ~ Sherry]

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