Watching Out For Scammers

Have you ever fallen for a scam? If so, you are not alone. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s website states that “consumers lose more than $40 billion a year to telemarketing fraud”. And it’s just getting worse. According to a 2021 Scam and Robocall Report, phone scam attempts increased by over 116% in 2021, reaching record highs.

Scammers try to cloud your judgment by evoking powerful emotions and a sense of urgency. They may try to scare you by threatening you with prison, large fees, or blackmail. They may try to get you excited by telling you you’ve won a large sum of money or that your debt will be eliminated. Or they may make you feel sad and sympathetic by telling you someone is in urgent need. In all these cases, they will insist that you act immediately.

Scammers are smart and are continually updating their stories. Some common ones are …

  •  The caller claims to be your grandchild, says they are in trouble and that they need money immediately  (usually wired or in the form of gift cards).
  • You have won something, but first you must pay a winner’s fee or tax.
  • You are contacted by a “charity,” and they ask you to donate right away.
  • An email that says it is from your friend, supervisor, or family member asks you to purchase gift cards and send them immediately

What can you do to avoid being tricked?

  • Do not make any decisions in the moment. Scammers are hoping that you will act while you are emotional and before you have had time to think it through.
  • Hang up if you are feeling pressured. Businesses and charities that genuinely want you as a customer will not be upset if you do not make a commitment at that moment.
  • Do not share any personal or financial information (your social security number, checking account information, etc.). You can make a donation or payment directly to the organization later if it turns out to be legitimate.
  • Ask for their name and the name of the business/organization. This is if you are considering paying their bill, purchasing their product, or donating to their charity. If you decide to call them back, call the number that you find the organization listed at.
  • Ask for additional information to be mailed to you. If they do send you something, you can review it with a trusted friend, family member or financial advisor.

Remember you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you determine if it is a scam and what to do if you feel you have been a victim. Fraud can also be reported to help protect others. Contact Amy Mangan-Fischer, Human Development and Relationships Educator, with questions at amy.manganfischer@wisc.edu or 920.929.3179.

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