Keen to avoid losing money to scammers? Here’s what you can do

Scams are divided into categories: romance, charity, relatives in distress. Dillman said scammers typically try to cause an instant connection of trust, a buy-in or describe a fake emergency. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

SELINSGROVE: Consumers reported losing more than US$3.3bil (RM14.53bil) to fraud in 2020, up from US$1.8bil (RM7.93bil) in 2019, according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Newly released data shows consumers reported losing more than US$5.8bil (RM25.55bil) to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70% over the previous year.

George Dillman, a consumer outreach specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, said if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"The average senior loses US$6,500 (RM28,639) to a scam," Dillman said.

Scams are divided into categories: romance, charity, relatives in distress. He said scammers typically try to cause an instant connection of trust, a buy-in or describe a fake emergency.

Charity scams often don't send information about their organisation in writing and typically push a consumer to send money.

Charities can be searched online. Those who receive calls can ask how much of a contribution goes to the organisation. He said consumers should know it is never 100%.

"Make sure it's a legitimate charity before handing money out," Dillman advises.

Relatives in distress scams often describe an emergency and ask for money. Some may ask for secrecy.

Dillman advises to ask the caller questions only a relative would know or to call the relative from a number you know.

"Do not answer calls from unknown numbers," Dillman advises.

A pay-up-front scam involves paying to receive some sort of prize, loan, or other item of interest. He said consumers will receive the call from someone they have no connection with.

Some scammers will pretend to be contractors. Dillman noted that the state Attorney General's office maintains a list of qualified contractors.

Dillman said to never pay cash in order to claim something and to know who you are dealing with. He strong advises to never pay with a gift card or wire transfer.

Imposter scams can center around government representatives, a technology company or credit repair company. Dillman said some may claim you could be arrested for non-compliance.

"Nobody from Microsoft or Dell is going to reach out to you," said Dillman.

His recommendation is to request proof of debt and never transfer money.

Avoiding imposter scams, Dillman said it is important to remember the government will not call you out of the blue asking for money. He said only consumers can fix their own credit.

In Somerset County, the treasurer's office got scammed out of approximately US$11,000 (RM48,466) earlier in June. Staff replied to a fraudulent email on June requesting a wire transfer, state police said.

The office received an email on June 8 saying it was from Somerset County's chairman commissioner requesting a US$11,295 (RM49,765) wire transfer. The transfer was completed that day.

The office received a second email on June 13 requesting an additional wire transfer of US$23,470 (RM103,408).

That request was denied.

The investigation is ongoing and not clear if other county offices have received similar emails. – The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa./Tribune News Service

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