Over the past year, we have received many calls from clients about different types of scams. Fortunately, most have been about how they avoided being scammed. Yet, unfortunately, a few have fallen prey. These scams typically appeal to fear or greed, with the perpetrators knowing how to “push the right button” to get their victims to give money or information. While awareness of the different types of common scams can help prevent us from falling prey, the best defense is often just plain old common sense. If something doesn’t seem right (or too good to be true), it probably isn’t.

Now let’s take a quick look at some of the more common scams:

  • You receive a telephone call from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claiming you owe back taxes and if you don’t pay they will seize your house or put you in jail (or something along those lines). The scammers will typically ask for your checking account number to pay off the outstanding taxes. Never give it to them. Remember, the IRS will NEVER call or email you. They ALWAYS send paper notices.
  • You receive a call from someone in a foreign country claiming your grandson/daughter has been injured or put in jail. They need money to help them return to the United States. They ask you to wire $1,000 (or some amount similar) to help them out.
  • You receive a call – Congrats you won the Publisher Clearing House Sweepstakes (or some other type of lottery)! All they need is a small payment and the winnings are yours. They will probably ask for your banking information – don’t give them anything! Trust me, if you win they come to your house!
  • You receive a call from someone claiming to work for a tech firm and saying your computer is under attack and they need access to your personal computer to fix the problem. When you give them access, they search your computer for personal information they can use to steal your identity.
  • You receive calls from someone purporting to be from a credit card company or willing to loan you money to pay off those high interest rate debts. Be careful. Many of these are scams with the hope of getting your personal information.
  • You receive an email from a prince in some foreign country who wants to give you millions of dollars if only you can send him a few hundred dollars to get him to the United States. Just so we are clear: there is NO prince – Sorry!
  • You receive fake emails that appear to come from someone you know (such as a legitimate financial institution). This is known as Phishing. Their main objective is to steal your personal information or direct you to fake websites (that appear legitimate) so they can obtain your personal information. You should delete these e-mails right away and if you need to go to a website be sure to type in the URL yourself – don’t just click on the link from a random email.

Many of us have probably received one of these calls or emails already. If you haven’t, it is probably just a matter of time before you do. Should you, don’t fall prey by giving out any information. Instead, take a step back and use your common sense. If necessary, do a Google search to see if anything comes up as fraudulent. If you are unsure about anything call a family member or your financial advisor and make sure it meets the “smell” test.

Be safe and don’t get scammed!