Top Scams We Have Seen in Seneca County
Unfortunately, scammers and dishonest individuals are prevalent in today’s world, and they will do anything to trick individuals into giving them their hard-earned cash. Below are several scam and fraud trends that we have seen occur in Seneca County. These are in no particular order, and everyone should be vigilant when giving out their information. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! People of ALL ages can and DO fall for these scams.
Romance Scams- You upload your dating profile on any of the dating apps available and get a match with someone who is good-looking, smart, funny, and personable. This potential mate claims to live in another part of the country or to be abroad for business or a military deployment. But he or she seems smitten and eager to get to know you better, and suggests you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app. You make plans to meet in person, but for your new love something always comes up. Then you get an urgent request. There’s an emergency (a medical problem, perhaps, or a business crisis) and your online companion needs you to send money fast, typically via gift cards, prepaid debit cards or a wire transfer. He or she will promise to pay it back, but that will never happen. Instead, the scammer will keep asking for more until you finally realize you’ve been had.
Social Security Scam Calls- One common tactic involves fake Social Security Administration (SSA) employees calling people with warnings that their Social Security numbers have been linked to criminal activity and suspended. The scammers ask you to confirm your number so they can reactivate it or claim they can issue you a new one, for a fee. This is no emergency but a ploy to get money and personal data: Social Security does not block or suspend numbers, ever. On the other hand, you might get a call from a supposed SSA representative bearing good news — say, a cost-of-living increase in your benefits. To get the extra money, you just have to verify your name, date of birth and Social Security number. Armed with those identifiers, scammers can effectively hijack your account, asking SSA to change the address, phone number and direct deposit information on your record and thus diverting your benefits to their own accounts.
Jury Duty & IRS Scam Calls- In this long-running form of government impostor scam, crooks posing as court or law enforcement officials, such as a U.S. marshal or sheriff’s officer, claim you’ve failed to appear for jury duty and face imminent arrest. The only way out is to pay an immediate fine via credit card, gift card or money transfer. Other fraudsters will ask for personal information such as your Social Security number and date of birth, supposedly so they can check court records but really so they can steal your identity. People impersonating the IRS could call and insist you have an unpaid tax bill and face arrest unless you pay up, immediately. The IRS does not actually communicate in this way.
Relative Scam Calls- The victim gets a call from someone posing as his or her grandchild or child. This person explains, in a frantic-sounding voice, that he or she is in trouble: There’s been an accident, or an arrest, or a robbery. To up the drama and urgency, the caller might claim to be hospitalized or stuck in a foreign country; to make the impersonation more convincing, he or she will throw in a few family particulars, gleaned from the actual person’s social media activity. The impostor offers just enough detail about where and how the emergency happened to make it seem plausible and perhaps turns the phone over to another scammer who pretends to be a doctor, police officer or lawyer and backs up the story. The “relative” implores the target to wire money immediately, adding an anxious plea: “Don’t tell Mom and Dad!”
Work-From-Home Scams- Typical ploys invite you to get to work stuffing envelopes, processing billing forms for medical offices, filling out online surveys, doing typing or data entry, or assembling crafts. The common thread is that you’ll be asked to pay something upfront for supplies, certifications, coaching, or client leads. In return you may get a load of useless information, or nothing at all, or a demand that you place more ads to recruit more people into the scheme. More involved cons promise to set you up in an online business — again, for a price, which can rapidly escalate into the thousands of dollars as one paid “training program” leads to another.
Gift Card Scams- Contacting you in the guise of someone else — a tech support expert, IRS agent or lottery official, to name a few common examples — scammers claim you owe a debt or need a service. They insist you buy gift cards and read them the serial and personal identification (PIN) numbers on the back to make quick payment. Don’t believe it. Genuine businesses and government agencies never ask for payment via gift card. Any such request is a sure sign of fraud. The same holds if you get an urgent call from a grandchild in distress, or if someone you’ve gotten close to online suddenly seeks a loan. An ask for money via gift card means you’re dealing with a crook, not a loved one.
Computer Takeover/Ransomware Scams- You’re doing work, answering emails, or browsing the web when, suddenly, your computer or mobile device stops working. A taunting message takes over your screen, informing you that some faceless internet villain has seized control of the machine and all your data. To get it back, the message claims, you’ll have to fork over a payment. Ransomware is a particularly devious type of malicious software, or malware. You can inadvertently download ransomware onto your computer or device by clicking on an online ad or email link, opening an attachment or, in some cases, simply going to a website where it has been planted (a form of attack called a drive-by download). Once the program installs itself, it will lock up your computer and communicate the demand for payment. Don’t pay a ransom to online crooks if your computer is attacked. They may just up the price, then destroy your data or leave it encrypted.
Online Banking Scams- The first defense against banking scams is knowing that a reputable bank will not contact you out of the blue and ask for your Social Security number, online account password or other personal information. It won't ask for money. Anyone that does is almost certainly phishing. This type of scam isn't new, but “scammers have gotten really, really sophisticated” at it, says Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs at AARP. These scams start with an email or text that appears to come from a real financial institution, down to an authentic-looking logo. These spoofed communications carry urgent but phony warnings about problems with an account or transaction. You might be directed to call a supposed customer service line (where you'll be pressed for personal information like a Social Security number), or to click on a link that takes you to a fake banking website. That could be a trap to infect your device with malware that allows crooks to track your keystrokes and capture account credentials. Signs of phishing can include misspellings and poor grammar; email or web addresses that resemble but don't quite match the real domain (look for a switched letter or extra punctuation mark); or generic greetings like “Dear Valued Customer." To find out if there's an actual issue with your account, contact the credit union or bank via a channel you know to be legitimate, like the customer service number printed on your account statement or the back of a debit card.
Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams- The initial contact in a sweepstakes scam is often a call, an email, a social media notification or a piece of direct mail offering congratulations for winning some big contest. But there’s a catch: You’ll be asked to pay a fee, taxes or customs duties to claim your prize. The scammers may request bank account information, urge you to send money via a wire transfer, or suggest you purchase gift cards and give them the card numbers. Regardless of the method, once scammers ensnare someone they'll keep coming back, calling victims for months or even years, promising the big prize is only one payment away. If you stop paying or cut off contact, they may threaten to harm you or a loved one or to report you to authorities.
Money Mule Scams- Sometimes scammers will send money to your account in order for you to send the money off to other individuals that you do not personally know or by other means such as gift card purchases. Those who carry and transmit illicit money to disguise its origins are called Money Mules. They transfer money derived from crimes, often starting by allowing the loot to be deposited in their own bank accounts. Typically, they pass the funds up the fraud chain by using, for example, gift cards, wire transfers, money orders, digital payment apps or bitcoins. Some mules are compensated for their efforts, while others are unwitting accomplices. If you are having to send money off to other individuals that you do not personally know, it is too good to be true and you could face criminal charges.
Look for more information about scams and fraud on www.aarp.org.