This is no ordinary band of superheroes.
The newly formed Scam Squad, a cooperative of agencies and community partners formed by the Albuquerque Consumer Financial Protection Initiative (CFPI), has a mission to educate the public about the threat of scams and help those who have been targeted by scammers.
CFPI Director Karen Meyers, who joined the City to head consumer protection efforts after stints with President Barack Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the office of New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, said, “Scams can happen to anyone, but knowledge is the best way to avoid losing money or becoming a victim. The Scam Squad will work to improve information on how to avoid scams through cross-agency collaboration, targeted outreach and more effective response to consumers seeking help.”
The Scam Squad recently released tips and tricks to avoid becoming a victim of scams:
- BEWARE IMPOSTERS. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, or a company you do business with.
- DON’T SEND MONEY OR GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION in response to an unexpected request – whether it comes as a text, a phone call or an email.
- DO AN ONLINE SEARCH. Google a product name or company with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam”. You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- DON’T BELIEVE CALLER-ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
- DON’T PAY UPFRONT FOR A PROMISE. Someone might ask you to pay in advance or send a fee for things like credit and loan offers, prizes or a job. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear. Hang up. Don’t engage. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you and play on your fear. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, talk to someone who might know. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust.
- CONSIDER HOW YOU PAY FOR SOMETHING. Credit cards are safest. Wiring money through Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Venmo or Zelle is safe ONLY IF YOU KNOW THE PERSON. To be safe, do not use a Debit card with an unknown person or company.
- HANG UP ON ROBOCALLS. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list.
- DON’T TRUST FREE TRIAL OFFERS. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy.
No matter the medium for the scam—phone, text or e-mail—these signs should send up ALL your red flags:
- Person claims to be from the government and asks for money.
- Person asks you to pay upfront to get a prize or gift.
- Person asks you to wire money, put money on a prepaid card or gift card and send it to them.
- Person asks for access to your money, through ATM, bank accounts.
- Person asks you for personal information, like your social security number or bank account number.
- Person pressures you to “ACT NOW’ or threatens jail or arrest.
Knowing the signs is one thing. But just how are you supposed to respond? What’s the right thing to do? Let’s look at a couple situations:
The Scam: Your phone rings. The Caller ID says IRS, but you’ve never had dealings with the IRS before.
How To Avoid:
- Ignore the phone call. The IRS will never call you unprompted (they’re mail people).
- If you do answer the call, feel free to HANG UP AT ANY TIME if any of the above red flags appear.
The Scam: You check your e-mail and see a new message that appears to be from the Social Security Administration. They’re informing you of an issue with your SSN and tell you to click a link or call a phone number to solve the issue.
How To Avoid:
- Click on nothing and delete the e-mail! Just like the IRS, the Social Security Administration will never send you an unprompted e-mail. The mention of an urgent issue is a big red flag.
SCAM SQUAD SAYS: Bottom line, if you don’t know the sender or caller, ignore it. If you believe you have been targeted by a scammer, contact the FTC to report the scam.