Each time I think nothing will surprise me when it comes to thieving scammers, I hear a more shocking story.
My last blog post HERE, about the fake IRS caller, who made a ‘We have an active shooter!’ call to the local sheriff, when his intended victim wouldn’t fall for the scam, won the prize for the most creative ‘bad guy move’ in my book. It seemed the crooks had hired a creative team to come up with new and improved ways to wreck havoc on their victims.
But today, my goat is officially ‘got’.
My senior citizen friend got a letter in the mail from the United States Postal Service, verifying his request to have all of his mail forwarded, due to a move. But there was a problem.
He wasn’t moving.
This scam, aimed at a 90-year old gentle man, a retired veteran, and much-loved Papa, genuinely makes me angry.
The crook had submitted a Change of Address form to the USPS, in order to redirect my friend’s mail to a different mailbox, so it would be easy to intercept checks and steal personal identity information. Since ID is usually required to request this, we are not sure how it was pulled off.
Here we have a very creative crook, and a lazy one at that. He or she must have gotten tired of driving up and down neighborhood roads, opening one mailbox after another, stealing fresh mail. Maybe, this person got stung by a bee from a climbing mailbox Clematis or accidentally lifted an envelope covered in ants. A new and efficient manner of thievery was needed, so this criminal got the brilliant idea to submit a change of address form to the post office.
I would even bet this form was submitted for multiple neighbors.
While I admire the unique quality of this scheme, he obviously did not think it all the way through to realize he was leaving a trail of crumbs to his own address or a registered P.O. Box.
Silly bad guy. Don’t make these plans late in the night when you’re tired. Think it through, man, think it through.
We need to work as a community to protect one another from these miserable low-lifes.
Here is a list of what you and I can do to stay safe from these thieves.
1. Spot a Scammer – They often pretend to be from the government, a charity or a family member.You may get a call, full of static, saying it is from a teenaged grandchild needing wired money to get out of jail. DON’T BELIEVE THE CALLER ID. Caller ID can be faked. All it takes is $10 and an account with the right company and your caller ID can become whatever you wish. If you get a call, and you have a doubt, hang up, and research the actual person or organization. DO NOT CALL BACK THE NUMBER THEY GAVE YOU OR WHAT IS ON THE CALLER ID. This goes for emails too. Contact the organization yourself and verify verify verify.
2. Research – The world is at your fingertips. If any organization or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research them on your computer and type in the company or product name with the word ‘scam’. You can also search for the phone number that called you to find if others have complained.
3. Hold Onto Your Money – If you have truly won a prize, you will NOT be paying a fee to collect the prize. PERIOD. If you receive a letter stating you have won a contest you have no memory entering, it is a scam. If you get a request to send in $20 to collect a prize, it is a scam. Do not wire money to anyone you don’t know personally. And do not pay upfront for services, as this is a common tactic to steal your money.
4. Pay the Safe Way – Credit cards have vast fraud protection built in, but some payment methods do not. Services such as Western Union or MoneyGram are full of risks, as it is nearly impossible to get your money back. This is also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla. Government offices and legitimate companies will not request that you use these payment methods. Some IRS scammers even request payments be made on iTunes gift cards. iTune Gift Cards!
5. If in Doubt, Share Your Concerns With a Trusted Friend – Share your concerns! Call your grown kids, call your pastor, call your accountant, anyone you trust! Let them help you figure out the validity of the call or letter or email. Scammers will push you to make a decision NOW, and they may even threaten you. This is your clue to slow down and check out their story. Do not be embarrassed. Check it out.
6. Hang up on Robocalls – If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message, hang up and report it to the FTC. Robocalls are illegal, and often the products are scams. Do not press ‘1’ to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls. Just hang up and report the call to www.ftc.gov/complaint
7. Be skeptical about the word ‘FREE’ – Some companies will use a free trial to get you to sign you up for products. Then they will bill you monthly and automatically renew you each year. Do not give out your credit card number or your bank account number for a free trial. Review your statements each month. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy.
8. DO NOT deposit a check and wire money back – Scammers will send you a check and then request you wire them money back because they ‘accidentally’ sent too much to pay for an item you had for sell. It can take a bank weeks to discover a fake check. This is a scam that can get you in hot water with the police! By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within a few days, but if a deposited check turns out to be a fake, you are responsible for repaying the bank and you could even be arrested. It has happened to many people and is a common scam.
If you spot a scam or are a victim of a scam, report it to ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies investigate scams and bring the bad guys to justice, and also, don’t forget to sign up for scam alerts by email from the FTC https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFTC/subscriber/new?topic_id=USFTC_31