Fraud and Scams

Common Scams and How to Protect Yourself

Everyone loves to help family, be a good citizen, or strike a good bargain, but when is a deal too good to be true?

Scams have always existed, but with the explosion of online communication, smartphones, and digital applications over the past 10-15 years, the prevalence of scams and the ability of scammers to reach out to victims has never been easier.

Every day, people across America fall victim to various scams losing hundreds, thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. It sometimes seems impossible for citizens, especially those who may not consider themselves tech savvy, to keep up with the existing scams, let alone the new ones that are being concocted.

This may leave people asking, “How can I protect myself?” Fortunately, people don’t need to be experts in scams to reduce their likelihood of falling victim to a scammer. By following a few simple tips, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of being victimized:

  • Never give money or personal information to unverified sources. If you receive a call or an online request for verification of personal information, do not provide it. Scammers are sometimes very savvy and can make requests for information by means of seemingly legitimate fake letters, emails, and phone calls.
  • Don’t be afraid to ignore the request and/or hang up. You can always call your family members, banks, or other institutions back on a verified phone number that you know to be correct or to go directly to your family or bank and speak to someone in person.
  • Be wary of any requests for wire transfers (Western Union, or to buy GreenDot or Gift Cards or to send pictures of these items. Scammers sometimes request these types of transactions because once made, the money can be immediately withdrawn by the scammer anywhere in the world and is often untraceable.
  • Be wary of requests for pre-payment. If a seller of an item requests a deposit for a product or service, sight unseen, there is a high likelihood you are being scammed. This also counts for payments on money transfers, as referenced in the Lottery & Inheritance scams.

Scammers are pushy and will try to use people's social graces against them to keep them talking. Don’t fall prey to this. If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, it is perfectly acceptable to respectfully state that you are not interested and hang-up.

Know that the IRS will not request for you to pay taxes or fines over the phone, nor will your local Police Department or Sheriff’s Office solicit payment for violations over the phone. If you receive such a call, you should personally contact your local law enforcement authorities to verify the legitimacy of any ongoing matters in which you may be involved and never send payment to unconfirmed sources.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Remember — you are the one in control and can take confidence in knowing you can say “no” and have all of the tools to control your financial well being.

For more information on consumer protections, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection website. Visit the FBI Scams and Safety Web page to learn more about 22 “common” scams.

If you want to report suspicious or fraudulent activity or attempts, please contact the Windsor Police Department at 970-674-6400.

 — Sergeant Aaron Lopez