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Scams -- How to Protect Yourself From Scams

It is estimated that only about 10 percent of scam victims actually report the crime to the police because they are embarrassed or ashamed.  As a result, Americans are scammed out of between $30 and $50 billion every year and almost 1.5 million complaints are filed with government agencies every year against home improvement companies, car dealerships, credit reporting agencies and investment fraud companies.  Identity theft is growing significantly every year since new technology has made it much easier for thieves to gain access to personal information.

If you are tired of being constantly scammed by pathetic thieves who refuse to earn an honest living, help the Internet community and federal and state authorities fight back.  First of all, put both your land line phone number and your cell phone number on the government's "do not call" list if you haven't already done so.  The website is donotcall.gov or you can submit by phone at 888-382-1222.  Below are some other steps you can take to fight back against scammers:

(1) Spam test messages and spam email.   About 50 million spam text messages are sent throughout North America every day. Thieves now prefer conning people by cell phone rather than email because people are three times more likely to answer their phones than read spam email.  It is also easier to hide as the thieves can use cheap, disposable cell phones whenever they want with little chance of being detected.  Instead of just deleting spam text messages or email, you can forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at the email address reportphishing@antiphishing.org.  This organization is made up of a group of companies who work together to eliminate spam. In fact, they have succeeded in eliminating a great deal of spam emails.

(2)  Email scams.  The most common email scam is phishing, which is defined as an attempt to trick you into disclosing your personal or financial information via an email.  Smishing is the same thing as phishing except it is used to send text messages to people on their mobile phones. About 70 percent of cell phone text messages are sent by scammers. Vishing is the term used to describe a scam using a recorded voice message, often called a robocall.  Do not respond to any of these attempts to scam you as it just tips off the thieves that your email address is real.  Don't reply to a smishing text by asking them to stop texting you because they won't and you've tipped them off that your number is valid and active, which means you will get even more unwanted texts.  Just block the numbers and inform your cell phone provider by forwarding the spam text to 7726 (which spells SPAM). They will likely block texts from those numbers in the future.  File complaints regarding email scams with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at their website, www.ic2.gov.  This website was created by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Report robocalls and other telephone scams to the Federal Trade Commission giving them the telephone number and time of the call. 

(3)  Talk to your elderly relatives.  Sadly, a great number of scams are perpetrated against the elderly, who are much more trusting than young people.  Government agencies document that $3 billion is scammed from the elderly every year and when you consider that less than five percent of these scams are reported, the true amount could be more than $100 billion every year.  You must help protect them from scammers by talking to them about how scams are carried out.  Make sure they understand that Caller ID can be faked so that it appears to come from any person, company, or government agency that the thief chooses.  Tell them not to give out their social security number, bank account numbers or any personal information over the phone or by email unless they are absolutely certain they are dealing with a legitimate person or company.  Tell your grandparents not to click on links in emails, particularly if they claim to be from a bank, tell the recipient that he or she has won money, a gift card, or anything free.  Scammers often try to intimidate the elderly by claiming they will be sued or arrested if they don't pay for merchandise, but federal and state laws say that people don't have to pay for merchandise they didn't order.  Tell them about this website and ask them to read through the dozens of scams.

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