Off and On: Don’t get scammed: What to watch for

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By The Staff

Going around the Internet now is a scam from someone claiming to be from the IRS saying that you have a refund and all you need to do is give some banking and debit information and its yours.Please, don’t believe it.If anyone contacts you by phone or e-mail and asks you for any personal information, run for the hills!And then call the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office. They report that they receive thousands of inquiries annually. Numerous consumers call the Consumer Protection Division to report various scams or frauds or what appear to be fraudulent schemes.If you encounter a scam or fraud, report it to the Consumer Protection Division by calling 800-678-1508.The attorney general’s office has issued some guidelines on how to protect yourself. They include the following:

• Be cautious of anything on the Internet asking for or requiring money.

• Be cautious of offers for products or services you did not seek out.

• Be cautious of prizes if you did not enter a contest.

•  Pay with a credit card. The best method of payment is by credit card, because you can dispute the charges by contacting your credit card company if there is a problem.

• When selling an item online, be extremely cautious of someone offering payment with a cashier’s check or money order. Be especially skeptical if the buyer tells you the check will be for significantly more than what you’re asking and requests that you wire back the difference.

• If you accept a check or money order, wait until you’ve received notification from your bank that the check has actually cleared; confirmation that the check has been deposited DOES NOT mean it is a good check.

Here are a few specific scams to watch for:

• “Phishing” scams: If you receive an e-mail from your bank or credit card asking you to “confirm” your account number by clicking on a website link, delete it; do not respond. The fraudulent e-mails look authentic and the website it links you to may even appear like the company’s “official” site. But if you enter the information requested, you have just given the keys to your identity to an identity thief. Banks and credit cards will never contact you through e-mail asking you to confirm this type of information.

• “Pharming” scams: This is similar to a phishing scam, but more dangerous. A pharming scam doesn’t require that you respond to an e-mail. This scam involves an electronic “redirecting” of users from a legitimate website to a fraudulent website. When you’re online at a secure website, check to make sure the address in your web browser begins with “HTTPS,” rather than just “HTTP.” Also, click on the padlock icon on your browser to check the website’s Security Certificate belongs to the company whose website you’re visiting.

• “Nigerian” scams: These scams are typically rooted in Nigeria and often claim to be coming from Nigerian officials; they often start off by asking for help in moving a large amount of money from Nigeria to a bank in the United States in exchange for a large portion of the money. If you respond, you might be asked to send money to help pay a transfer fee or some other sort of fee.

• Counterfeit cashier’s check: You sell an item through an auction site and then receive a cashier’s check for more than the amount agreed upon and are asked to wire the extra money back to the sender. The problem is that the cashier’s check is fake, yet so good that your local bank could not even tell, and now that the check did not clear you are responsible to pay back your bank the full amount of the check.

• Lottery scam: You receive a notice that you have won a lottery for which you did not purchase a ticket. When you call to collect you might be asked to send a copy of your passport or the person on the other end might request your bank account number to transfer you the money.

• Pyramid schemes: You are invited to a club or group where in order to join you must give money to someone in the club and then you recruit others to join. In return you are to be rewarded by others giving to you. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to come out ahead in this scheme and pyramid schemes are illegal in New Mexico, so no matter how good they sound, do not participate in them.

Here’s what to do if you are the victim of an Internet fraud or scam:

• If you paid with a credit card or bank  card contact the company that issued your card immediately to alert them of the problem.

• File a complaint at www.ifccfbi.gov. This site is run by the FBI for the purpose of reducing Internet frauds and scams.

• If you think your identity has been stolen immediately contact your creditors, banks, credit bureau, local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission by phone and in writing. Let them know that you have become the victim of identity theft.

• Keep a record of all communication you make with these agencies, including everything you send them, each person you talk to, and the date and time of all communication. Make sure you fill out a local police report and retain a copy of it.It is up to each of us to be smart, never give out information and remember, if it seems too good to be true, beware!

E-mail Ralph at ralph@lamonitor.com.