Pointe Coupee Electric provides tips on avoiding financial scams
NEW ROADS - We like to think we can’t be duped by financial scams, but according to a recent survey of adults ages 40 and older, the numbers say otherwise. The survey found that eight in 10 adults received some type of fraudulent offer, and 11 percent lost a substantial amount of money in a scam. Surprisingly, 40 percent of people did not recognize the warning signs of a financial scam.
Although senior citizens are targeted slightly more often by fraudulent schemes, anyone can fall victim. Scams work when people forget an important axiom: What seems too good to be true almost always is. The methods used to part you from your hard -earned money are varied and always changing, but three of the most common include:
• Online “phishing.” An email you receive from what looks like a known, trustworthy website asks you to respond with confidential information such as a credit card number, banking number, personal identification number or Social
Security number. Clicking links in the email can also install malware, or malicious software, on your computer. Both methods can aid criminals in stealing your identity.
• Phone or in-person solicitations. Callers or visitors may make attractive offers that guarantee you will receive large amounts of money - after you provide sensitive information or pay an up-front fee. Others pose as government officials demanding payments.
• Investment offers. Promises of unusually high investment returns with little to no risk should always raise a red flag.
How can you protect yourself? Be diligent in keeping personal and financial information private, and maintain a sense of skepticism when conducting business with new contacts. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
• Tread carefully online. If you receive unsolicited emails or click on pop-up windows, understand these can be run by phishers. Never send personal information electronically unless you’re making a purchase from a website you trust or opening a secure online account with an institution you’ve chosen to contact.
• Establish who you’re dealing with. Before sharing personal information or making a payment, get a salesperson’s name, company name, physical address, phone number and business license number. Research the entity on your own, inspecting its website and checking with the Better Business Bureau.
• Take your time. A legitimate business or government agency will not push you into making an immediate decision or payment. Scam artists capitalize on the fear of “missing out,” or when making fake threats, they pressure you into a quick decision.
• Be cautious about certain methods of payment. Wiring money is equivalent to sending cash - and it’s often untraceable. Likewise, revealing that a scammer’s check is bad can take weeks. Make purchases with a credit card that allows you to dispute fraudulent charges.
• Nothing is free. Beware of door-to-door salespeople in general -including those who offer medical products that are “free” when you provide your Medicare or other insurance information.