Julie’s Reflections: Are you being scammed?

Photo by Julie Giyer / Kern Valley Sun Example of a check scam. Notice that there is no company letterhead, the run-on sentence, and multiple spelling errors. The check looks authentic, but the account is not.

By: Julie Giyer
Kern Valley Sun

Everyday hundreds of Americans are falling for scams. Whether it be by phone, door-to-door, email, and even job sites. Scammers will find every avenue they can to scam you out of money. There are many types of scams circulating right now. Scammers will use all kinds of sneaky approaches to obtain your personal information by hacking into your computer, identity theft, phishing, and remote access.

It is important to know the different types of scams and what to look out for and do in the event that it happens to you. Some of the biggest scams include:

Money Mule scams- This involves the scammer sending you money, sometimes by check, and then asking you to send the money back to them or to someone else. They often ask you to use gift cards or wire transfers.

Imposter scams- The scammer will pretend to be government agencies or other well-known agencies. There are some claiming to be with the Social Security Administration or IRS, and will ask you to provide pertinent information that will allow them access to your personal data. Be advised, the IRS will NOT call you and the Social Security Administration will not ask you your personal information through phone calls, emails, text messages, or social media.

Scammers are now taking advantage of the Coronavirus outbreak. They may send emails and posts promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments. They are even showing up on door steps. You will not hear about treatments or medical breakthroughs by email, phone call, or by someone showing up on your doorstep. It would be presented to the world through your television or news program. Programs such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) will not ask you for donations.

Here are some tips that can help you avoid being scammed:
-Do not, under any circumstances, give out your bank account information, social security number, or other important information about yourself to someone over a phone call, email, or in person unless you have contacted that agency directly and know it is legit.
-Never pay to accept money or a prize you have supposedly won.
-Never cash a check that is being sent to you from an unknown source or “supposed” employer that contacted you from a work-from-home job application. No one is going to just send you, a stranger, money willingly to purchase work equipment or pre-pay you for a job you have not done. You can always call the bank listed on the check to be 100 percent certain.
– Do not click on links from sources you don’t know, it could be malware or a virus.
-Report anything suspicious to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/ complaint. Make sure you provide the FTC with the email address, phone number, or other contact information you may have received from the scammer.

The more aware you are of the scams out there, the higher the probability that you won’t fall victim to one. Use your intuition, if it feels wrong it usually is. If you have to question whether something is right or wrong then ask someone else who may have the answer. The internet is another good tool, it is full of helpful information at the touch of a button.

Believe me, I didn’t think I would be one of those people that would fall for a scam. I almost did. While looking for a side job for extra income, I found a position on a job site called Glassdoor that claimed to pay $30/ hr to work from home. This company claiming to be Mercer Consulting Limited sounded like a great opportunity. That is until I received an email telling me they were going to send me a check, which they wanted me to cash, buy the equipment needed, and send them the rest of the money back. I googled the company and it was a legit company but something was fishy. The very next day, I came home from work and there was the check in a Fed-Ex envelope on my front door step for $4,600. Who sends someone that kind of money without having any of my personal information, no knowledge of who I am, etc…

The biggest lesson I can take away from this is the knowledge that if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. I also get to share my story to hopefully help others avoid making the mistake of cashing a check if they receive one.

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