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Scammers continue to cost local residents

Last month a retired gentleman came into my computer repair shop in Gettysburg. It was apparent he was not what you would call “tech savvy.” He had recently dialed a phone number on pop-up screen on his computer that advertised for Bitcoin.

He sat in the chair in front of my desk and told me his story. A scammer on the other end of a phone call had talked him into buying $16,000 in what he thought would be Cryptocurrency, but the money was actually being stolen from him.

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“I guess I will have to go get a job at Walmart to replace the $16,000,” he said.

Unfortunately, Jim’s story is not at all unusual. Although most people we see here locally have not lost money, and those who did report losing “only” $500-$2000, many, many people have been scammed.

In fact, my businesses sees about 10 customers every month with similar stories. They are all here in our shop because they need to pay us to have their computer cleaned of a virus.

I am writing this to remind you that scammers are everywhere and that every one of us could be a victim.

I am sure many are aware of the scams that are out there.  They can come in the form of a phone call (someone claiming to be from the Microsoft Corporation who asks if you computer is running slowly), by email (a message supposedly from a reputable company says they have renewed your magazine subscription and to call them), or on your computer itself (a pop-up asking you to call in for a great deal).

Whether you are contacted via phone, email, or computer doesn’t really matter – if you allow any scammer access to your personal information you will likely end up with a costly trip to the local computer repair shop and possibly lose your money.

There are three simple rules to prevent this from getting that far.  I call them red flags.

First Red Flag

Be suspicious of anyone, no matter who they claim to be, who reaches out to offer you help.

As sad as it may sound, strangers are not likely to offer to help you. I know that some of us want to see only the good in people, and while that is an admirable trait, there is a truth to what PT Barnum said —  “there is a sucker born every minute”.  The unseen face on the other end of an unexpected phone call or email pretending to be IRS or Amazon employee may seem sincere in their desire to help you, but probably isn’t.

If someone you don’t know offers to help you, hang up the phone immediately.

Second Red Flag

Never, never let anyone you do not know (and by know, I mean have met in person and have some level of trust in), remotely control your computer.  If you hear someone say “let me control your computer” or “can you go to this website for me” you are probably being scammed.

If someone wants to control your computer, logoff your computer immediately.

Third Red Flag

If you made it this far you will likely have a trip to the computer repair shop in your immediate future, however you are not out any money yet, so all is not lost.

This is the most important thing you can take away from this article.

No one and I mean absolutely, positively no legitimate company now and forever will ever ask for or accept payment in the form of gift cards.

If someone asks you for a gift card, hang up the phone immediately.

Depending on the tenacity of the scammer they will likely contact you again. But do not engage with them. Eventually they will give up and move on.

Now for the most important part.

Do not be embarrassed that you “fell” for a scam. It can happen to the best of us.

Talk about your experience to anyone who will listen; the more we talk about scamming the more light we shine on scammers.

Talk about it to your family at holidays and picnics; talk about it to your friends, or even the cashier at the checkout lane. 

If you’ve been scammed, talk about it.

Some interesting scam stats:

  • In the US, one in ten adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud every year.
  • Around 50% of people contacted by a scammer engage with them.
  • Of those approached by scammers on social media, 91% engaged, and 53% lost money.
  • 58% of scammers are using old-fashioned techniques – Phone and postal scams are rife. Letters asking for money for services you haven’t received, and even letters claiming that you have won money and need to provide your bank details are common and often target the elderly above other demographics.
  • Phishing attacks statistics show that 90% of data breaches are from phishing. – Online phishing involves sending emails pretending to be a reputable company or agency in order to try to obtain sensitive information like passwords and bank details. Charity scams statistics also show that phishers often pretend to be working for a charitable non-profit organization.
  • Every month around 1.5 million new phishing sites are set up. – Authorities try to shut them down but it is a game of whack a mole.
  • 83 Million Facebook accounts are fake.
  • Older Americans lose an estimated $2.9 billion a year from scamming.
  • More than 2.4 million Americans are targeted by people pretending to be from the IRS each year.
  • American consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud last year, up from $3.4 billion in 2020 (an increase of more than 70%), the Federal Trade Commission said.

Jefferey Baum is owner of Total Tech Solutions in Gettysburg.

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Mary M Thompson
Mary M Thompson
1 year ago

Being the victim of online theft can be unpleasant and disheartening since you were offered false guarantees, and it stung much more when they stopped contacting you after they had taken your money. I’ve been in that position before since I was very ambitious and sought financial security, which led me to invest a significant percentage of my life’s assets. After I told my lawyer about the event, he assisted me in getting in touch with (contact Kevin recovery agent AT GMAIL. COM), who was able to successfully regain all of my money from the fraudulent investment site. I never… Read more »

Linsie Jonas
Linsie Jonas
1 year ago

Great article. This should be in every newspaper across America, posted to the church and senior center bulletin boards. We get so much spam anymore. It seems like you can’t trust any incoming call, email, USPS letters, or advertisements.

Robert Prosperi
Robert Prosperi
1 year ago

Thanks, Jeff. We should all read your article at least once a month.

Timbrel Wallace
Timbrel Wallace
1 year ago

A great article and reminder that we all need to keep our guard up!

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