Con Artists As Dangerous as Mugger with a Gun
By Cecil Scaglione
Mature Life Features
Con artists feed on the greedy and the careless. And also on the polite. Folks continue to give out numbers for their bank accounts, credit cards, and Social Security just because a caller has requested them.
The unseen solicitor poses as a fraud investigator looking into charges have been made against your credit card and offers to repair your account. He or she will ask to verify your numbers and address and other such information.
Ask for a phone number so you can call them back. Then hang up, whether they give you a number or not. Don’t be polite. They’re crooks trying to steal your money. Call the local Better Business Bureau and tell them about the call.
If you’re concerned about your credit-card account, call the phone number on the back of the card to discuss the
matter with a company representative.
The ubiquitous cell phone with a camera has become a weapon these thieves are using more and more. They use telephone camera to take photos of credit cards. That gives them your name,account number and expiration date — enough to run out and clean out your account. So don’t leave your card laying on a counter at the store or table at a restaurant.
Never let the card out of your sight. Crooked employees can swipe your card through a scanner to
copy the magnetic strip.
The expanding use of the Internet has widened the horizon for these crooks exponentially. Never
send any information over the ‘Net, unless you’ve initiated the contact with a reputable mail-order house you’ve dealt with regularly, such as Land’s End, or if you’re ordering something from an e-mail house, such as e-Bay or Amazon.
Don’t be fooled by an Internet website that looks official. Scammers can set up an official looking page and have your responses diverted to their own e-mailbox and merrily milk your funds. The Web also is a great marketplace for crooks selling bogus products described as healthful supplements and medical devices.
The old standby scams are still around, like the lottery and Nigerian schemes. The first involves a contact that says you’ve won money in a lottery and all you have to do to get your money is wire funds to cover tariffs and attorney fees because the money is originating from abroad. One Southern California resident was bilked out of more than $250,000 by these schemers not too long ago. The Nigerian plotters have a variety of stories that are all designed to break your bank. there for a bit and they’ll give you a handsome fee.
Then there’s this tried-and-true con. You receive a gaudy piece of mail or an “invitation” that says you’ve won a rather hefty gift or a tempting vacation trip, for example. All you have to do is send a few hundred dollars to expedite the paper work.
Chuck it in the paper shredder. If you don’t have one, get one. They’re inexpensive and can be used to shred all paper that carries sensitive and financial information: statements from your bank, credit-card companies, brokerage firm, and mortgage company.
Watch out for gift checks you receive in the mail. A neighbor cashed in small such check — it was for less than $10 — from a company she had dealt with and learned in her next statement that, by cashing the check, she signed on to pay a monthly fee for a travel service the company provided. She didn’t need any such service since she works for an airline but the firm said by cashing the check, she was automatically signed on, and that was that.
Remember the gilded rule: if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004