We’d like to talk to you about ‘Kari’.
Kari isn’t a millionaire. For years, she has been a working-class citizen of New Castle. She works 40 hours a week, pays her taxes and has a little under $6,000 in her savings.
To Kari, she is a normal person that has ZERO signals of ‘scam me’. In her mind, she is plain – nothing special about her.
With all of that said, Kari was still the target of a successful scam.
Today, we’re going to look at Kari’s situation and how she could have easily avoided the whole situation. While her particular issue was happening to her, you will see that being the target of a scam is not isolated – it happens all the time.
Have you been the victim of a scam? Have you successfully prevented a scammer from taking advantage of you?
HOW DO SCAMS WORK?
Scams occur when you have a malicious actor trying to gain access to a random, or targeted, person. Scams can try to gain information, financial access (money) or be the basis for further scams (sometimes called meta scams).
A scam starts with a simple contact. These can be via email, phone call, text, Facebook messenger…any of these.
Scams do one thing – they make you feel scared. You will feel scared of losing money, scared of jail-time, scared of public reporting, scared of a lot of possible things…
Fear is a terrifically sound and time-tested motivational factor for making a scam work.
Fear; Or, what is stronger than intelligence
What do you fear? In the context of someone calling or contacting you, what do you fear?
Do you fear the IRS?
Do you fear bill collectors?
Do you fear government agencies like Social Security?
Do you fear lawyers, policemen, sheriff’s departments, etc?
Do you fear that you will miss out on a time-sensitive ‘thing’?
Those fears are usually (I’d say 99.95% of the time) the reason for scammers being so successful. Your fear shouldn’t deter your intelligence from saying ‘This does not sound right’.
Let’s get back to Kari…
Kari thought that IRS was going to New Castle and break down her door
Kari was contacted via an email from the “IRS”. Of course, this wasn’t the IRS. Not only would they not contact you via email, but the link to take care of the situation was directing her to a website somewhere in Russia.
But then, Kari received a phone call.
The voice on the other end told her “You know that your IRS payment from last year is overdue.”.
The person on the other end knew her name and her address.
The person, the “IRS Agent”, reminded her to stay calm. And, this issue could be resolved very quickly.
What did she have to do? Send a check to one of the IRS branches?
The person told her she just needed to send gift card details to pay that amount. The cost of the debt would go from $4,398.63 down to $495.00. All she had to do was grab an iTunes gift card and read the numbers.
Now, I’m assuming the voice on the other end sounded more stern, more forceful, more authoritarian. She was thinking “I need to pay this off”, not “I think this isn’t right”.
Truth be told, she was scared.
She bought the gift cards (he said this was the fastest and most secure method), and she gave those details. He thanked her, and hung up.
No receipt, no notice, no anything.
At this point, Kari called the IRS to verify her payment. She wanted to make sure everything was fine and she owed nothing.
After a long conversation, she realized that her fear cost her $500.
Kari was scammed. She never owed more money to the IRS. The IRS never called this New Castle native, mother of three, married for 15 years.
Nothing was wrong – except that Kari got scammed.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT SCAMS OUR COMMUNITY NEEDS TO AVOID?
Kari’s story is not unusual. Many people living in and around Lawrence County receive calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, IMs and more, that are classified as ‘scams’.
Naturally, humans trust other humans.
We trust, then verify when we should do things the other way around.
Kari, the victim in our story, succumbed to her own fears of authority. The IRS scam is not unique to her. In fact, it is one of an ongoing group of scams plaguing our community.
The IRS scam is still happening.
During this pandemic, another similar scam started to appear. This one involved someone calling you, as you were ‘selected to be tested’. However, there is a $175 fee to be tested in this instant COVID-19 test.
Another recent scam involved rent rebates. Someone would call and offer you program admission for the government to remove your rental debt. It only costs you $295. Completely a scam here.
You might also hear from robotic-sounding calls involving lawyers, the local sheriff, the New Castle Police Department, etc., all points of authority saying you owe them. They have you type in a number, and then they ask you to buy gift cards and send them those details to pay your debt.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING NEXT TO AVOID SCAMS?
Scams are always going to exist. However, you can very easily see these scams, avoid them and let people know about them.
To be able to determine a particular event is a scam, you just have to be always aware that they exist and that you could become a victim. After all, it only takes a few seconds to believe something.
One big tip that we can give is to “never trust, always verify”. If you receive an email, a phone call, whatever it is from someone stating that they are your bank, credit union, local government, police department, etc., hang up and call them back. Use their publicly listed number.
Many times, this is enough.
However, some scams are more difficult to see. These use intimidation, immediacy and focused emotional trigger to get you to do something. Once again, this comes down to never trusting that this person is really this person.