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Words From Wiser: How do I Scam thee? Let me count the ways

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From Chuck Wiser, 9/16/21,

What Irony! As I turned on my laptop to begin this piece, this picture appeared at the bottom message area. This particular common scam, is one of the ones that I will list herein. I think it is safe to say that every one of us has been bitten by, or at least threatened or exposed to at least one of the many scams. Many may not even have realized that is what happened. I have been quite diligent in my attempts to not be dragged into, or duped by, most of them. I have however suffered a couple, and some quite recently, which is what prompted this topic.

Let me say right up front that I use PayPal for most of my online purchases. PayPal, even though not necessarily complicit in these scams could do a lot to help protect the innocent or naïve among us. PayPal’s payment policy used to be to not issue payment until at least after shipment of the order. Now, unless you use their “pay later” credit line, PayPal will pay almost immediately, and if you discover that you have been scammed or duped you pay hell trying to get your money back. It isn’t easy to do, but I have been very persistent and fortunately lucky to have gotten PayPal to refund my money in all instances. PayPal makes you go through a “problem reconciliation procedure” with the seller before they will investigate and come to your aid. These scammers are very good at what they do.

My most recent encounter involved an item which I ordered that never arrived. Weeks after the promised ship date I had not received the item, nor even a shipping notice. I contacted PayPal and they told me to contact the Seller and try for a “resolution”. I did that. The seller replied back and advised that the item had been shipped a few days previously. After waiting a week, I again contacted PayPal and after a day or two I was advised that they contacted the seller and they gave PayPal a USPS delivery receipt that shows that I (supposedly) had received the item. I replied that I hadn’t and asked for proof of delivery. The reply that I got back advised that the item was received at a Charles Street address in Scio. The Post Office, I guess because of their policies, would not tell me who lived at that address. As it turned out there was no residence at that particular Scio address. The seller had provided a bogus address and PayPal accepted that. I debunked that and ultimately got my refund.

Having done a little research I investigated the many types of Scams that exist. At the risk of boring you too much I will include herein the many types of scams. I do so not to put you to sleep but, if like me, you will recognize many of these and perhaps have been a victim, or at least target of some of them. Many of these share multiple characteristics.

Types:

Gain Personal Information: Solicit and obtain personal information such as “Identity”, Account, or credit information. This group likely includes most of those we are familiar with.

  • Hacking: Gain access by intruding into computers, mobile devices or your social network.
  • Identity Theft: Obtain and use someone’s personal information to steal or gain benefits.
  • Phishing: Attempt to trick you into providing personal information such as bank or credit account numbers, “user names”, passwords, etc.
  • Remote Access: Lure you into buying software or apps to solve computer problems (see above picture), which may typically be non-existent.

Buying or Selling: Producing or promoting fraudulent products, or services.

  • Classified: Trick online shoppers into thinking they are talking to Company representatives and specialists having made a phone call or contacted a company responding to a query or to search for information at a site such as Bing or Google.
  • False Billing: Request payment for items or services not received. Issue invoices for renewals upon completing a previous contract or subscription.
  • Health & Medical: False or misleading claims or billing for services or products not received. My example…Medicare supplement plans.
  • Mobile Premium Service: Tricked into paying for, or for high, call or text rates for unsolicited phone texts.
  • Online Shopping: Fake Websites, ads or promotions, advertising products not accurately priced or even provided. My Example…Paying $19.99 for Sam’s Club membership.

Dating & Romance: Taking advantage of people looking for romantic partners, such as through advertised or online dating sites.

Fake Charities: Impersonate genuine charities for donations taking advantage of compassion and generosity.

Investments: (aka Madoff Ponzi Schemes) Promise of big payouts, quick money, guaranteed returns, also sports betting and investments.

Jobs and Employment: Fees charged with promise of guaranteed way to make fast money or gain high paying job.

  • Threats and extortion: Attempt to steal identity or money by threat or hi-jacking computer.
  • Malware: being duped into installing software to allow remote access to computer
  • Ransomware: being duped into payment to unlock your computer if access blocked.
  • Arrest or penalty (Impersonate FBI or IRS like entity) for failure to pay fees not due.
  • Unexpected or Unsolicited Money:  Attempt to get up front payment for unexpected funds such as inheritance, overseas transfer of funds, rebate, or reimbursement.

Robo Calls: The latest trend in Scams is often facilitated by Robocalls, which can be utilized to perpetrate most of the aforementioned. Not all robocalls are illegal, but all can be a nuisance. Their legality is dependent upon intent and implementation. One of the most troublesome and active lately has to deal with offering warranties or extending warranties on vehicles, including those that you haven’t owned for years. Where do companies get their information relative to your ownership (current or past)? Often, received directly from the dealership where you obtained the vehicle, or even your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Your information is included in “Data Bundles” including specific information about your vehicle, your purchase, and even your registration information. This information is solicited from the providers and sold to the advertising entity. 

Some wonder if robocalls are legal. Some are. Call blocking may or may not work. The National Call Blocking Registry worked for awhile, but it rapidly outgrew its effectiveness. Even blocked calls can still trigger at least one ring of your phone with some call systems, which is still a nuisance.

What Robocalls are legal?

  • Messages that are purely informational such as: appointments, cancellations, alerts such as weather, prescription notifications, public activities, etc.
  • Political (Sadly I think)
  • Debt Collection calls
  • Health care providers
  • Charities, if called directly by the organization, or some 3rd party, unless you have been a previous donor and canceled or previously “opted out”.

The old adage: “If it’s sounds too good to be true then it probably is”.

Bottom line…Buyer Beware!


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