All too frequently, the staff at the Anamosa Library & Learning Center hear of folks around Anamosa who have been swindled by phone or online scammers, who use clever ruses to part you from your money. And, all too frequently, it's the elderly that are targeted.
Educate yourself on common scammer techniques. If you have an elderly friend or relative, educate them as well. Forewarned is forearmed.
Some common scams:
1) THE HELPFUL COMPUTER GUY - you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or some other recognizable tech company. The caller claims your computer is malfunctioning and insists on "helping". Many times the caller will want you to install software on your computer to help him diagnose and fix it. The software, however, is often remote control software that gives the caller unrestricted access to your computer. Once that software is installed, you have essentially given them the keys to your computer and whatever it contains, included passwords, bank account information, Social Security numbers, etc.
To make matters worse, the caller will want to charge you for fixing your computer. In some instances, if you refuse (after the remote control software has been installed), they can password lock your computer to punish you. They may offer to release the lock once payment has been made.
There is no sense staying on the line with these guys. JUST HANG UP! They are extremely good at sounding convincing, and can counter any argument you might make. They are professional criminals. Don't give them the time of day. Just hang up.
2) GRANDKID IN TROUBLE SCAM* - you get a call: "Grandma, I need money for bail." Or money for a medical bill. Or some other kind of trouble. The caller says it's urgent - and tells you to keep it a secret.
But is the call who you think it is? Scammers are good at pretending to be someone they're not. They can be convincing: somestimes using information from social networking sites, or hacking into your loved one's email account, to make it seem more real. And they'll pressure you to send money before you have time to think.
3) IRS IMPOSTER SCAM* - you get a call from someone who says she's from the IRS. She says that you owe back taxes. She threatens to sue you, arrest, or deport you, or revoke your license if you don't pay right away. She tells you to put money on a prepaid debit card and give her the card numbers. The caller may know some of your Social Security number. Your caller ID may show Washington DC area code. But the real IRS won't ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and won't ask for a credit card over the phone. They will first contact you by regular mail.
The Federal Trade Commission maintains a list of the most recent scams making the rounds. Visit their site and educate yourself. Don't be a victim! And pass on your knowledge to the next person so they don't become a victim either.