How to Avoid Being a Victim of Fraud
My mother received a phone call from someone claiming to be an Apple representative. The caller claimed that Apple had detected a breach in my mother’s iCloud account. She asked that my mother provide some sensitive information on the phone and authorize remote access to her computer.
My mother refused. She hung up and called a real Apple support representative, who verified that Apple had not initiated the call. What she had experienced was attempted fraud.
My mother was not deceived; however, many people, especially those who are elderly and beginning to experience cognitive decline, are easy prey for con artists. Con artists are everywhere, but there are things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following practical tips:
- Spot Impostors. Impostors often pose as government officials, charities, or technical support representatives. Make it a policy to never give any personal information on the phone or in an email.
- Do online searches. Research any companies that call you to investigate whether others have lodged complaints against them.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. This was crucial in my mother’s situation. The caller ID of the fake Apple technical support representative who called my mother indicated that the caller was Apple. It wasn’t. Caller ID information can easily be manipulated, so don’t fall for it.
- Don’t commit to payments. Someone who asks you to pay fees or taxes upfront to consolidate a loan, receive mortgage assistance, or claim a prize they say you have won will take your money and disappear.
- Use safe payment methods. Be wary of wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram because it would be very difficult to get it back in the event of fraud. On the other hand, credit cards offer significant protection from fraud.
- Don’t cave to high pressure tactics. Con artists often pressure their targets to make immediate decisions. Slow down. Talk to someone. Verify that the business calling you is legitimate, like my mom did.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you don’t recognize the number, allow the call to go to voicemail. Don’t answer the phone. You can also try to opt out of robocalls and calls from telemarketers. Nomorobo blocks robocalls and calls from telemarketers. The service is free for customers with VoIP service, and costs just a couple of dollars a month for mobile phones.
- Be wary of free trials. When you accept these offers, you may inadvertently be opting into a monthly subscription that is difficult to cancel.
- Don’t wire money before a check clears. Some con artists may give you what appears to be a check and ask you to wire money to them before the check clears. Even lawyers are prey to scams like this! Be careful.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC. You can do so by clicking this link.
Fraud is all around us, but targets the most vulnerable among us. If you or someone you love has been a victim of fraud, take action immediately. To report fraud, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, or the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
This article was initially published on October 3, 2018, and updated on October 3, 2021.