Wow That’s a Lot of Money - Otsego County Residents Lost Nearly $70k to Scammers So Far This Year
According to the New York State Police, Otsego County residents have been experiencing and falling victim to a slew of scams that have resulted in the reported loss of nearly $70,000 so far in 2019.
Let’s take a look and talk about how you can protect yourself and inform your friends, family, and coworkers of this threat that is definitely feeling too close to home for many of us.
What Kind of Scams are Hitting Oneonta?
According to a June 18th press release on the NYSP website, these scams consist of a wide variety of different tactics, but they start with an unsolicited phone call. Many of these calls have an urgent vibe to them and will try to play on your emotions. This was also covered on the All Otsego website.
Here are a few scenarios that have been reported to the authorities this year:
IRS/Social Security Scams - These scams make it sound like you are under investigation by the IRS or Social Security and will face prison time if you don’t grant the caller with bank account access.
Utility Scams - The caller will pretend to be associated with your electric/gas company, your cable or Internet provider, or some other utility, demanding money or threatening a criminal lawsuit.
Online Purchase Scams - This gets tricky, as the scammers could be targeting people who are selling or have sold a specific product online, on sites like Craigslist and eBay. The scammer calls and says they accidentally overpaid. In some cases, the scammer has actually purchased the item AND has overpaid, in order to get you to pay out the difference, only to find their original payment gets deemed fraudulent the next day. Be very careful of this one.
Lottery Scams - Congratulations, you won the lottery, but you need to pay the tax before you receive the lump sum. However, that’s not how it works.
Family Emergency Scams - The caller pretends to be a friend of a family member, or a police officer, EMT, a bondsmith, etc., They claim that a family member needs you to send money right away to bail them out of jail or rescue them from being stranded at an airport, etc. If you get this call, call the family member in question and check up on them.
Computer Scams - This gets under our skin, personally. The caller will claim they are from Microsoft/Windows/IT support and tell you that there is a problem with your computer. They will try to get access to your computer over the phone or demand money to fix the issue.
Be Vigilant, Be Skeptical, and Be Careful
It’s extremely easy to get caught up in emotional scams like these. “Oh, I’m late on a bill? That’s not like me, I’ll pay you right away!” “My cousin just spent the night in jail and needs me to bail her out? How dreadful, let me get my wallet.”
These scams work because they depend on you being a good, helpful person who wants to do the right thing. It’s so incredibly easy to make a snap decision and get scammed. Of the people in our area who have already fallen victim to this, our hearts go out to you - you lost money and probably put yourself through a whole lot of stress all because your default is to do the right thing.
That’s why it’s critical to be careful and be a little skeptical when you are asked to send cash or give access to your bank account or share a password.
The NY State Police website had some advice to avoid these scams. This is taken right from the site:
- Do not send cash to anyone you do not know
- Do not send gift cards to ANYONE, unless it is an actual gift to a known person.
- Unless you have a winning lottery ticket in your hand, you did not win the lottery. No lottery will pre-charge taxes as a result of winning.
- Do not provide information with your bank account information or social security number.
- Do not provide anyone access to your computer, in person, on the phone, or through the internet.
- If someone is calling you asking you to verify information such as a bank or utility company, hang up and call the number on your statement.
- Ask questions only that person would know. Hang up and contact your loved one immediately. Never send cash to anyone you don’t know.
- Bank employees should be cognizant of customers taking large sums of money not consistent with their normal banking habits. Retail store employees be cognizant of people purchasing a large amount of gift cards.
In addition, don’t share passwords with strangers. A bank employee should never need to know what your bank account password is.
If you’ve been a victim of a scam like this, be sure to contact the police immediately. If you’ve given access to an account, change your password immediately.
Please share this with your coworkers, employees, friends, and family and please, be careful!
Personal Scams Can Affect Your Business Too
While on face value, these scams seem to be a purely personal matter. When you think about it, there can be considerable overall consequences affecting local Oneonta businesses. First off, there’s the stress and worry your team member may have if they were a victim of one of these scams. Losing a substantial amount of money to a scam could affect their concentration at work. Moreover, many people bring their personal security habits into their professional environment and if your team member is susceptible to such a scam at home, they may need more security training on the job. When you train your staff to be security conscious, you not only protect your business, but it also carries over to their personal life, protecting them at home.
Security training works. If you need IT help or want to strengthen the security of your business’ network, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 607.433.2200.