Scammers are persuasive and believable, whether they are pretending to be an IRS agent collecting taxes, posing as a grandchild who’s in jail and needs bail money, acting like an IT professional to get a virus off your computer, creating a fake social media profile, or professing love on a dating site. Always check the validity of a claim, especially if you experience the following red flags:
• Moving too fast to create a sense of intimacy and trust. Kathleen said the dating site she used had a policy against communicating with matches outside of the site, as well as sending money. Still, her match convinced her to do both, using charm, compliments, and terms of endearment to push a sense of intimacy. Eventually, he leveraged the relationship they had quickly established to create a fake financial emergency that required her immediate assistance. And it was all quite believable. “I was very naïve, and I thought I was smart,” she said. “The words ‘romance scam’ weren’t even in my vocabulary.”
• Pushing you to act in haste. Paul Troy, senior crime victim advocate with ElderServe in Louisville, said scammers like the one Kathleen encountered will often “instill a sense of urgency in their victim. They will push you to decide to do something right away” — click a Web link, share a password or social security number, send money or gift cards — before you can rethink your decision, run it past another person for advice, or check the validity.
• Asking for — demanding — personal information or money. The Internal Revenue Service cannot use iTunes gift cards to settle your tax debt, for example, so don’t fall for a call asking you to do so right away or risk imprisonment. Publisher’s Clearing House or other sweepstakes will not ask you to pay a fee to collect your grand prize winnings.
• Scamming with the season. Fraudsters often reach out seasonally: IRS scams in the spring; online shopping scams in December, for example. Always double check on a site like charitywatch.org to make sure charities that are asking for donations, especially after a natural disaster or around the holidays, are legitimate.
BY LORRI MALONE