How do I protect myself from scams that have become all too common in society today? How do I prevent myself from becoming a victim of the scammers who are on the phone, on the computer and at the front door?
Stuff needs to get done around your house. Maybe you could use some help with yard work, painting, window cleaning, or a new roof. You answer the phone. Another group is asking for your monetary support. What do you do? How do you respond?
Take the time now to familiarize yourself with hard and fast rules designed to help you make good choices and avoid the masters of the scam.
Rule number 1: NEVER hire someone you don’t know to do a job who comes to your door and asks for the job. Here’s what they will tell you:
- They are doing work in the neighborhood and will give you a great deal.
- They’ll tell you how honest they are and may even have a child with them.
- They’ll scare you … “those bushes block the view of your door someone could break in” or “snakes hide in those weeds I wouldn’t want to see your little dog get hurt” … “That tree could fall on your house.”
- They’ll want a quick decision and payment up front.
Just say no nicely and shut the door. Better yet, don’t open the door to a stranger! Only hire someone you call and who provides references.
Rule number 2: When it comes to the phone and internet, NEVER give ANY personal information, make a financial contribution, or buy anything from anyone who calls, emails, or texts you and asks. Just say, “I do not ever do that.” Here’s what they will tell you:
- “It’s free.” Not on your life! You will pay. It’s never really free.
- “It’s for a good cause.” Fire, police, orphans, cancer. They may be good causes, but you can find them locally and donate locally. If you send money you will hear from these folks frequently and forever. They will be asking for additional dollars.
- They’ll scare you. Someone you care about needs help (translate that to money).
- They’ll tell you they are official US this or that. The real IRS and Social Security do not call people. Don’t believe it.
Just say no and hang up. Better yet, screen your calls.
Rule number 3: Give yourself a COOLING OFF PERIOD. NEVER be pressured into a quick decision, especially one that involves money. Designate someone you trust to be your decision buddy BEFORE you need them. Make a hard and fast rule for yourself that before you act, you’ll share what you are thinking about doing with this person.
Talk to your spouse, partner or parents about scams and scammers. Make a short list of rules for yourself. No exception rules, short and easy to remember. Sign up for AARP fraud alert network at AARP.org. Be prepared.
Finally, if you have been scammed don’t keep it a secret. Report it to your state’s Attorney General, the FBI, or Federal Trade Commission. Ask for help. It is embarrassing. Once you realize what happened, you feel foolish and that can be depressing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stuff happens. These people know exactly how to push the buttons of nice, kind folks. Prevention is the only real defense.