We’ve all heard heartbreaking stories of people losing their savings to scammers, or perhaps you’ve even fallen victim to one yourself. It seems that scammers are constantly finding creative ways to trick people into handing over their money or personal information. I know I’ve certainly been tempted to ‘help’ the poor princess that just needs by bank account information so that she can transfer her wealth there for safe keeping because I’m the only one she can trust.
Not only that but we also regularly hear about data breaches that have put our personal data at risk an can make us even more vulnerable to identity theft and related crimes. Fortunately, there are We’ve compiled a list of 5 proactive steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers:
1) Stay informed. Sign up for the Scam alert network at oregonconsumer.gov to be notified of new scams, fraud and other consumer threats.
2) Reduce telemarketing calls. Once you’ve been on the “Do Not Call Registry” for 31 days, telemarketers are not allowed to call you. And if they do, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Register online at donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
Unfortunately, the do not call registry only applies to telemarketers, not scammers. If you want to try to block even more unwanted calls, you can download an app, or talk to your service provider about options that they might have. The FTC has more information on call blocking on their website.
3) Reduce Junk mail. More junk mail = more personal information in the trash/recycling. Unless you’re really good at shredding it all, in which case please accept my virtual high five, and please consider this a time saving tip instead.
- To opt out of credit card/insurance offers call 1-888-8688 or go to optoutprescreen.com.
- To opt out of receiving unsolicited mail from other companies, register for Mail Preference Service at dmachoice.org
(this service costs $1).
Voila! No more pesky piles of unwanted mail.
4) Order your free annual credit report. Do it now. And then set a reminder on your calendar to do it again in a year. Visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you’re curious about credit scores, what goes into them and why they matter, check out this post on our blog.
5) Be suspicious of any call from a government agency asking for money or information. According to the FTC, government imposter scams are top of the list of reported fraud. It’s easy to get panicked (I know from experience) when you hear that “the IRS is coming after you”, or “you’re going to lose your social security benefit for good”, but staying calm and hanging up is your best bet when you get phone calls with these types of threats. Unfortunately you can’t even trust caller ID anymore because scammers are able to spoof numbers so that they show up as something that might be familiar or local.
Just remember that government agencies won’t call you with threats, promises of (or demands for) money. You can always follow up with the real agency to find out if they were in fact trying to reach you. Also never pay with a gift card or wire transfer. If someone tells you that is the only way to pay, it’s a scam.
If you’d like more consumer protection information the following websites are great resources: