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Most Common Financial Scams (continued)

Election Scams -- During the months preceding national and state elections, scammers often use the telephone, calling people pretending to be from legitimate political organizations or state agencies helping people register to vote or asking them to join a particular political movement.  The lure is often the promise of winning a free trip, such as a cruise, if they will participate in a short survey.  At the completion of the survey, the victim will be told she has won the prize and must make some sort of payment, such as port fees if she won a cruise or a handling fee if she's won a gift certificate, in order to receive the prize.   Another election scam involves calling and asking for donations to a political party or claiming to be from voter registration asking the victim to verify his social security number and other personal data.  If anyone ever calls you during election season wanting a donation or for you to answer a survey, just hang up.

Internet Scams -- More than 30 million Americans give up personal data to strangers every year via the internet by clicking on email links, visiting websites they shouldn't ever be visiting to get free coupons and products or to watch pornography.  Many thieves operate websites hawking these products and services because they know you are likely to visit.   The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the fraud and spam email is down significantly the past few years; however, thieves are now targeting people using text messaging because they know you are much more likely to respond to a text you receive on your phone than you are to even click on and read a spam email.  So beware that you don't make it easy for a thief to victimize you.  Take the precautions below:

Social media -- Thieves monitor Facebook and twitter to find out who isn't home.  Don't announce the fact that you will be out of town on a specific date or you might find your home burgled when you get back from your trip. Do not put your age and date of birth on your Facebook page if strangers can see it, but keep in mind that a great deal of identity theft victims were victimized by friends and family.  The Federal Trade Commission estimates that thousands of scammers, particularly those from overseas, are using social media sites to find out enough information about a person so that they can contact them and sound more legitimate.  Thieves are now using news-feed messages and bait pages at Facebook luring in victims by claiming that there is an app you can download that will tell you who is checking out your profile or where you can watch really exciting videos or pornography.  These bait pages might ask you to complete a survey or reveal other personal information you would not want to reveal.  If you "like" them, they might end up sending all sorts of spam to your friends and family.

Email malware and spyware -- When you click on a link in an email you are taking the chance that malware or spyware is being secretly downloaded to your computer.  Malware can take control of your computer, spy on your ever key stroke and send a report to the thief, so that he can clean out your financial accounts.  Do not click on links in emails from those you don't know (and maybe even those you do know).

Fake Email Notifications -- Suppose you bank at Citibank and one day you receive an email from Citibank asking you to click on a link in the email and log in to your account.  Thieves can send emails that look like they legitimately come from a bank.  They send them to millions of people hoping a few will take the bait and they often do.  If you receive an email from your bank asking you to do something, don't click on any links in the email.  Instead, type the URL address in the menu bar and go to the bank's homepage to log in.  Scammers don't just pretend to be banks -- they also pretend to be from airlines confirming reservations, the UPS or other package delivery service. 



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