Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with top industry experts to bring you the most relevant and timely updates about threats to your personal data security. One group, Scam Detector, combined with their local Better Business Bureau, produces a top ten list of threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at their top three scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Utility Scams

 

This is perhaps one of the most frightening scams, because it’s all too easy to fall for it. Imagine receiving a phone call from your electric company—in the dead of winter, no less—and having the caller state that your bill hasn’t been paid. Unless you remit payment immediately over the phone, your heat will be shut off…tomorrow. A quick glance at the five-day forecast is all it takes to convince victims to fall for this scam.

Never provide payment over the phone to a company caller who contacts you. If you think this could be a genuine call, thank the representative for informing you and hang up, then place the call yourself to your utility company using their publicized phone number in order to clear up the matter. Once you find out from your power company that this was a scam, alert them immediately to the call you received, and provide the phone number that called you if you have it.

#2 – Parking Ticket Scam

When harsh winter weather strikes, it seems like traffic becomes an even bigger headache than usual. So when you’re lucky enough to find a great parking spot, you may be quick to take advantage! Unfortunately, scammers have a new way of trying to get their hands on your money, involving your vehicle.

In the first instance, you come back to your car and find an official-looking parking ticket on your windshield. It has a website for you to pay online, or a phone number to call to pay over the phone. Sadly, many municipalities actually do have websites for online payments, so this actually looks legitimate. The other form of this scam is an email or letter mailed to you that states you have an unpaid parking ticket, and that the provided link will take you to their payment center.

But be warned, there’s a great chance it’s a fake, especially if you didn’t do anything wrong like park in a handicapped zone or let your parking meter run out. Always check to see that the web address includes an S after the “http,” which means it has been verified as secure. Also, if there’s even a chance this isn’t genuine, simply call your city office that handles these matters; they’ll have a record of you receiving the ticket.

#3 – Google End of Year Scam

By now, most of us wouldn’t think twice about deleting an email that promises we’ve won millions of dollars in some foreign lottery, so scammers have had to get creative in the way they approach their potential victims. This new version of the same old scam claims that Google is giving you a prize for being a great Google user in 2014.

Once again, no one—repeat, no one—is going to contact you by email in order to award you untold wealth. What they will do, however, is glean all the information they can get from you in order to steal your identity, have you send bogus payments, and more. If you receive any emailed promises of astounding fortunes, go ahead…give yourself a few harmless moments of fun as you dream about owning that private jet and beach house in the Caribbean, then delete the email!

 

For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit Scam-Detector.com or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.

 

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