Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with industry experts to bring you updates about threats to your personal data. One group, Scam Detector, produces a top ten list of threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Office Repair Scam
You receive a call at work that claims to be from a copy machine (or other type of office equipment) company, and the caller states there is an updated manual for your machine. All he needs is the serial number or model number off your office’s system. But instead of a user manual, your office receives a box filled with expensive toner cartridges (or other accessory, depending on the machine) along with an invoice for a hefty bill. Even if your office isn’t going to pay it, you’re stuck trying to ship it back.
First, remember that most copiers are serviced under a contract, so only conduct business or share information with the company your place of business has already opted to contract with. Next, try this: if you do get this phone call, ask the caller for the web address where you can download this manual; chances are good the caller will have a reason why that’s not acceptable. Finally, remember that if someone ships you items that you didn’t order, the burden is on them to retrieve them. You’re legally not required to pay—either for the items or for the shipping—and you’re under no obligation to return them or buy them.
#2 – Life Alert Scam
You may have seen commercials for the Life Alert system, the wearable button that users can press in an emergency. This system has helped countless seniors and their family members find peace of mind from knowing that help is there at the touch of a button.
Unfortunately, scammers have flipped the tables on the security that Life Alert provides, and instead are using promises of a free Life Alert system to steal senior citizens’ identities. It works like this: the call from an automated system promises a free Life Alert, and to receive it you simply have to press a button to speak with an operator. Once the representative comes on the line, he or she asks for tons of personally identifiable information, including your address, credit card number, Medicare number (which is actually your Social Security number), and more. You never receive a free system, and the thief just made off with your identity.
Remember that legitimate businesses are moving away from automated cold calls thanks to the national do-not-call registry. While there are still telemarketers out there calling on behalf of companies, no telemarketer should ever ask for that level of personal information. If they do, hang up immediately.
#3 – Fake Rebates
This one works either by phone or by email, and it’s nothing more than a high-pressure sales pitch whose aim is to get you to hand over your information. Callers posing as employees (often of genuine, well-known companies) call you and offer you a limited-time rebate deal; if you act now, you’ll be eligible for a massive rebate on their services, and all it takes to lock in your rebate offer is the activation of your account.
Here’s the catch: if you tell them you want to take a little while to think it over, the pressure begins. They can’t guarantee the rate, or spots are filling up fast and you won’t be put on the list if you don’t act now. They’ll tell you anything to get you to comply right at that moment, but since the caller isn’t actually an employee of the company, he’s really just stealing your information.
If you’re ever pressured to make a snap decision by a telemarketer or through an email offer, hang up or ignore it. Any genuine deal from a legitimate company will give you more than ten seconds to decide!
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.