how to protect yourself from scams
Scammers are everywhere and are constantly finding new ways to take your money and your personal information, and they will do anything to get it. They especially like to prey on the elderly and the vulnerable, but people of all ages can become victims of scams.
Below are some of the most common types of scams to watch out for. Each of these have several variations, but the following information provides a general overview.
A fake check scam happens when you’re asked to be a secret shopper or you receive a check that you’re not expecting. You’re supposed to text personal and financial information to a specified number. Then you’re asked to send some of the money back to a third party by a wire transfer or by providing gift card information. The money is sent and the check comes back as fraudulent, and you are left with the loss.
Gift Card Scams
A gift card scam is when you’re asked to pay for something using one or more popular gift cards, such as an Amazon gift card. The scammer asks for the card numbers and PINs, which allows them instant access to the money on the gift cards, and you receive nothing in return.
A common grandparent scam is when a grandparent receives a call that their grandchild is supposedly in a foreign country and was arrested, in an accident, or in some type of financial crisis and needs money sent to them right away. The grandparent is often told not to tell the child’s parents or other family members.
An imposter scam occurs when a scammer pretends to be a trusted individual such as a government agent, family member, or someone who promises to fix a computer. They try to convince you to wire them money, put money on a gift card, or send cryptocurrency because these types of payments are difficult to reverse. They might also ask you to share personal information.
Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams
A lottery or sweepstakes scam happens when you receive a phone call or email claiming you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, like the Publisher’s Clearing House. Typically you receive messages that state in order to collect the winnings, you must pay taxes or fees beforehand. Not only are these calls and emails fake, but participating in a foreign lottery violates Kansas and federal law. The scammer will keep any money you send them, and they can make unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts or charges to credit cards if you provide the scammer with your financial information.
A romance scam occurs when you meet a “friend” online from another state or, most likely, another country and you receive a message saying that the “friend” was arrested, in an accident, or in some type of financial crisis and needs money sent right away. Money is usually sent by a wire transfer or with cryptocurrency. The scammer usually claims that they will meet up with you, but something always comes up where they need more money and you never end up meeting.
A utility scam is when a scammer calls claiming to be a representative from a utility company and threatens to cancel your service if personal and financial information is not provided.
Visit Consumer.FTC.gov to learn more about scams and tips to protect yourself.
If you have any additional questions, please Contact Us.
If you’ve spotted a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
Victims of internet crimes can report complaints to ic3.gov
You can also contact the Kansas Attorney General’s office and/or local law enforcement if there has been a loss.
Preventing Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information (such as your name, credit card number, driver’s license number, or other personal identifying information) to commit fraud or other crimes.
Simple ways to protect yourself:
- Never email any personal information unless it is via secure email.
- Don’t give out your Social Security or account numbers unless you initiate the call.
- Review all your monthly financial statements.
- Shred trash with sensitive information including convenience checks and credit card offers you get in the mail.
- Use direct deposit to have recurring checks you receive deposited directly to your bank account.
- Don’t leave printed receipts behind at ATMs or gas pumps.
- Don’t put credit card or other personal information on a website that isn’t secure.
Phishing is an email scam that attempts to trick consumers into revealing personal information through fake web sites or in a reply email. Usually the emails and websites use familiar logos to deceive consumers into thinking the sender or website owner is a company they know or a government agency.
How does it work?
In the typical phishing scam, you receive an email supposedly from a company or financial institution you may do business with. The email describes a reason you must “verify” or “resubmit” confidential personal information – such as bank account, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords and personal identification numbers – using a return email, a form on a linked website or a pop-up message with the name and the logo of the company. It may state that your bank account information has then been lost or stolen; that limits may be imposed on your account unless you provide additional details. If you comply, the thieves hiding behind the seemingly legitimate website or email can use the information to make unauthorized withdrawals from your bank account, pay for online purchases using your credit card, or even sell your personal information to other thieves.
Spyware is a computer software program that gathers information about a computer user, and in most cases, without the user’s knowledge or informed consent. Spyware applications are inadvertently installed when visiting a website or clicking a hyperlink.
The software can gather and transmit personal information (email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, PINs) to another organization or person and use it illegally.
It can also cause problems with computer resources causing PCs to run slowly or erratically.
How do I protect my PC from spyware?
To prevent the spyware installation without your consent, remember not to download any freeware onto the computer.
You may already be using anti-virus software, but to be effective, the software should be updated regularly with the latest virus definition files.
Change your online banking password regularly to protect your personal data.
Always run anti-virus and anti-spyware software before you download other programs or open e-mails.
If you think that you have installed such software in your PC, you may wish to seek professional IT advice on steps to be taken to uninstall the software from your PC.
A great source of information about how to protect your confidential personal information is the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Online Security site (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity-online-security)
If you suspect or have confirmed that your personal information has been lost or stolen, the Federal Trade Commission recommends four steps to get you on the road to recovery.
Step 1: Contact Your Financial Institution
- Report lost or stolen financial information to the appropriate institution. Consult with them to determine if the account needs to be closed or have security passwords incorporated to prevent unauthorized access and/or maintenance to your account.
- If you do not recognize a financial transaction, or suspect fraud activity, immediately call Farmers State Bank at 785.457.3316 (Westmoreland), 785.539.9002 (Manhattan), 785.889.4211 (Onaga) or the appropriate financial institution.
Step 2: Protect Your Finances & Identity
- Contact the fraud victim assistance departments of each major credit reporting bureau and obtain a copy of your credit report, which is free to ID theft victims – analyze the report and identify accounts you have not established.
- Request that your file be flagged with a “fraud alert tag” and a “victim’s statement,” which will limit the thief’s ability to open new credit accounts.
- If you currently have ID Theft insurance you will be required to file a police report in order to place a fraud alert on your profile which will remain in place for seven years.
- If the stolen information includes your driver’s license or other government-issued identification, contact the agencies that issued the documents and follow their procedures to cancel a document and get a replacement. Ask the agency to “flag” your file to keep anyone else from getting a license or another identification document in your name.
- Monitor your financial statements on a monthly basis and report unauthorized activity to the appropriate financial institution immediately.
- Contact one of the major credit reporting companies below. Once done, the information will be shared with the remaining organizations.
Step 3: File a Police Report
You may to need a file a police report in the town or jurisdiction where the theft occurred to dispute unauthorized charges and for any required claims.
Step 4: File a Report with the FTC
Fill out an online ID Theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1.877.ID.THEFT.
- By sharing your theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information on ID theft cases that can be used by law enforcement officers to find patterns, track down, and catch criminals.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov
Also, be sure to contact your bank, local law enforcement, and the three major credit bureaus.