Scam here, scam there, scam everywhere
If you are like most of us, you have been subjected to a scam attempt. A quick search on Google and even reports by local news outlets will reveal that thousands of people are bombarded by scam attempts daily. These scam attempts come in various ways.
One way is via a phone call. Often people receive phone calls from individuals claiming to represent anything from the Social Security Administration, various law enforcement agencies, the IRS, and more. These types of scam attempts usually call stating that you owe money, have pending legal action against you, or claim you have a warrant out for your arrest. They attempt to gain sensitive personal and financial information so they can help you thwart or solve the problem they claim you have.
Of course, these claims are false. However, as time goes on, scammers work harder and harder to seem more genuine and authentic. One of the first warning signs that should alert you to an attempt to scam you is the plain facts. Most people are already aware if they have a tax issue or some other legal issue currently going on in their life. If you receive a phone call alerting you to a situation that you have never been aware of, then it is almost certainly false.
Secondly, many of these types of phone calls begin to communicate with you via automated voice prompts and instruct you to call back and talk to a representative. There is a very good reason why scammers use this approach. They often originate from foreign nationals whose English is, for lack of a better word, poor. That should be clue number 2. If you receive an actual phone call from the Social Security Administration (which you won’t), it will be from a U.S. citizen whose English sounds normal and is not suspect.
We have often called back these attempts to gain greater insight into the scammers' methods. One of the telltale things we have noticed is that the room the call taker is in usually sounds noisy, busy, and unprofessional. You can almost envision the sweatshop atmosphere lined up with telephones on tables with dozens of scammers all collected together just chatting away.
These are the facts about the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and any law enforcement agency. They will not call you. Social Security and the IRS will initiate communication with you via good ole fashion mail. Period. They do not call. Law enforcement agencies, if they need to pay you a visit, will do just that. They will not call advising you of pending legal action or arrest warrants. If those occurrences are legitimate, they physically come looking for you.
What about emails?
Scams come in the form of emails as well. We have an example here. You can click on it to get a better view.
It looks pretty convincing, doesn’t it? At first glance, if appears to look like a legitimate email from Amazon. That is what email scams are designed to do. They attempt to visually duplicate the body of legitimate emails with the hopes that you believe the information they are sending.
Let’s take a closer look at the Amazon email:
Clue #1. We will start at the very top of the email information. The email address from which the Amazon message is sent is a false one. If you look at the “Reply-To:” address, it is NOT a legitimate email address Amazon uses. If you have ordered something from Amazon, the email address they will use to inform you about your order is email@example.com. This is the first small detail that scammers hope you will overlook.
Clue #2 is how they address you. If you notice they address me as “Dear Outten, Kenneth”. This lets me know my contact information was likely received via a .csv file used to upload massive amounts of email contacts into their mail delivery system. They didn’t even bother to switch the placement of my first and last name. Amazon will address you as: “Hello (first name)”.
Lets look at clues #3 and #4. In the body of the email, they add the statement, “If you didn’t not recognise this order, please call 1(866) 217-3446 to report this transaction.” Note the multiple grammar errors in the statement. That is the first clue. Additionally, legitimate Amazon order confirmation emails do not include that statement. In this case, the scammer is hoping that you actually call them to inquire about the order. The next tactic they usually attempt is to gain information about your Amazon account or other information to make fraudulent purchases or steal from you. Please DO NOT call in response to these email scams!
Also, notice that there is a button to click to review the order. That seems normal at first. But if you attempt to click the button in the email, it does not work. It is simply window dressing to again, make the appearance of the email seem legitimate. Real emails from Amazon have buttons in the body of their messages that actually work and more importantly, direct you to the real Amazon website.
Always verify (if needed)
If ever you receive a phone call, text, or email that is attempting to alert you to an issue that seems suspicious, go with your gut feeling. The best and safest way to verify the information is straight from the horse’s mouth. Do not call or attempt to verify information provided in a suspect message. Call the actual agency or company represented in the message. If there is in fact an issue you need to be aware of or information about your account, legitimate representatives will be able to advise you.
Play it safe and don’t let scammers steal your valuable time and money!