Be Vigilant and Avoid Fraud Traps

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The persistence and inventiveness of criminals trying to find new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people — especially in a down economy — would be impressive if it weren’t so nefarious. The only way to make sure you don’t end up a victim is to educate yourself about potential methods they might try to use and learn how to protect yourself. Here are some ways to defend yourself from common approaches fraudsters might take to part you from your money.

Do due diligence on charities

When people are suffering, the charitably minded want to donate cash and other assets to help relieve the suffering. Before donating anything, beware that opportunistic scammers may set up fake charitable organizations to exploit your generosity.

Fake charities often use names that are similar to legitimate organizations. So, before contributing, do your homework and verify the validity of any recipient. Remember, if you’re scammed, not only will you lose your money or assets, but those who you intended to benefit from your charitable action will also lose out.

Watch out for phishers

In a “phishing” scheme, victims are enticed to respond to a deceptive email or other online communication. In some phishing scams, the perpetrator may impersonate a representative from a health agency, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They may ask for personal information, such as your Social Security or bank account number, or instruct you to click on a link to a survey or website.

If you receive a suspicious email, don’t respond or click on any links. The scammer might use ill-gotten data to gain access to your financial accounts or open new accounts in your name. In some cases, clicking a link might download malware to your computer.

The IRS reports that its Criminal Investigation Division has seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers — and among the primary targets are retirees.

Take care with your cards

A few simple steps can help cut the risk that your credit and debit cards will be used without your permission or knowledge — or at least, that you’ll be liable for any charges unauthorized users make: First, carry only the cards you need and destroy old cards, slashing through the account number, before discarding them. Don’t provide your card number over the phone or online unless you’ve initiated the contact.

In addition, don’t choose a PIN that could be easily guessed. If you have online access, take a few moments to scan transactions every time you log on. If you don’t have online access, be sure to review your monthly statements. If you notice a transaction that isn’t yours, report it to your credit card issuer or bank right away.

It’s also a good idea to keep a list of important numbers and relevant data and store it separately from the cards themselves. Having this information handy will make it easier to report a missing card or suspicious transaction quickly.

Don’t answer robocalls

You may have noticed an increase in “robocalls” — automated phone calls offering phony services or demanding sensitive information. For instance, callers may offer items for sale at reduced rates. Then they’ll ask for your credit card number to “secure” your purchase.

Reputable companies, charities and government agencies (such as the IRS) won’t try to contact you this way. If you receive an unsolicited call from a phone number that’s blocked or that you don’t recognize, hang up or ignore it.

Stay alert

Unfortunately, wishing criminals and fraud don’t exist won’t make them go away. The best approach is to stay aware of the evolving types of fraud and remain proactive in making sure you’re not victimized by it.

Need Additional Information?

If you need more information, please contact us so we can connect you with one of our CPA advisors who will be committed to your business and personal success. BLS is here to help!