Fraud and Scams

Common Scams and How to Protect Yourself

Everyone loves to help family, be a good citizen, or strike a good bargain, but when is a deal too good to be true?

Scams have always existed, but with the explosion of online communication, smartphones, and digital applications over the past 10-15 years, the prevalence of scams and the ability of scammers to reach out to victims has never been easier.

Every day, people across America fall victim to various scams losing hundreds, thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. It sometimes seems impossible for citizens, especially those who may not consider themselves tech savvy, to keep up with the existing scams, let alone the new ones that are being concocted.

This may leave people asking, “How can I protect myself?” Fortunately, people don’t need to be experts in scams to reduce their likelihood of falling victim to a scammer. 

Protect Yourself from Common Scam Attempts Made by Phone, Email, In-Person or by Postal Mail

  • Never give money or personal information to unverified sources. If you receive a call or an online request for verification of personal information, do not provide it. Scammers are sometimes very savvy and can make requests for information by means of seemingly legitimate fake letters, emails, and phone calls.
  • Don’t be afraid to ignore the request and/or hang up. You can always call your family members, banks, or other institutions back on a verified phone number that you know to be correct or to go directly to your family or bank and speak to someone in person.
  • Be wary of any requests for wire transfers (Western Union transfers, requests for GreenDot or Gift Cards or pictures of these items). Scammers sometimes request these types of transactions because once made, the money can be immediately withdrawn by the scammer anywhere in the world and is often untraceable.
  • Be wary of requests for pre-payment. If a seller of an item requests a deposit or processing fee for a product or service, sight unseen, there is a high likelihood you are being scammed. This also applies to any request for payments or fees on money transfers, and are common components of Lottery, sweepstakes and inheritance scams.
  • Never Download Attachments or Follow Links from Suspicious or Unknown Sources. Criminals will sometimes use this method to install harmful software onto your computer or mobile device that they can use to collect personal information or hijack your device. In the case of a hijack, you can be locked out of all access to your device and the scammer will demand payment to return access. Be extremely cautious when considering opening attachments or being directed to suspicious links.

Scammers are pushy and will try to use people's social graces against them to keep them talking. They may also try to appeal to sympathies or even make threats. Don’t fall prey to this. If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, it is perfectly acceptable to respectfully state that you are not interested and hang-up.

Know that the IRS will not request for you to pay taxes or fines over the phone, nor will your local Police Department or Sheriff’s Office solicit payment for violations over the phone. If you receive such a call, you should personally contact your local law enforcement authorities to verify the legitimacy of any ongoing matters in which you may be involved and never send payment to unconfirmed sources.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Protect Yourself from Common Scam Attempts through WiFi

WiFi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels and other public places are convenient but they're often not secure. Internet Scammers are opportunists who go after data by hacking or replicating free public WiFi networks to access financial information like checking or credit card numbers, account information such as usernames and passwords, and personal identifiable information like your birthdate, mother’s maiden name and Social Security number.

If you absolutely must connect to public WiFi, consider the following:

  • Avoid tasks that require inputting personally identifiable information. Don’t log into bank accounts, don’t access email, and never enter personal or credit card information into any website to pay or bill or make a purchase.
  • Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. A VPN can be used to shield browsing activity from prying eyes on public WiFi.
  • Don't trust a website just because it claims to be secure. When using a computer to browse the internet on public WiFi, make sure you only enter information on HTTPS sites. Albeit not entirely protected, HTTPS options often have an added layer of encryption, making them a safer alternative.
  • Consider investing in unlimited data, which eliminates some of the perceived need to access publicly available WiFi.
  • When in doubt, check it out. Be cautious of requests for personal information. If/when a business tries to contact you for payment on bill, there’s no harm in verifying that the request is genuine.

Important to Remember

​​Remember — you are the one in control and can take confidence in knowing you can say “no” and have all of the tools to control your financial well being.​​

For more information on consumer protections, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection website. Visit the FBI Scams and Safety Web page to learn more about 22 “common” scams.

If you want to report suspicious or fraudulent activity or attempts, please contact the Windsor Police Department at 970-674-6400.

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