Have you ever received a telephone call from an unknown, foreign number? How about an email from a foreign country claiming that you are entitled to millions of dollars? Have you ever gotten contacted for a classified listing by someone willing to pay more than your asking price?
If your answer to any of those questions is “Yes,” then it is highly likely that you have been solicited by a scammer.
Fake telephone numbers, bogus emails, and questionable messages for your ads are popping up more frequently, and are proving more difficult to filter. Although it is virtually impossible to eliminate spam indefinitely, there are a few simple steps that we think might help you filter the fake calls, emails, and solicitations from the real ones.
If it sounds too good to be true…it is.
If a complete stranger (whether via telephone or email) is claiming that you are entitled to monetary compensation through no fault or merit of your own, there is almost a 100% chance that stranger is attempting to scam you. You are always being scammed if someone wants to…
- “Purchase” something you have for sale but needs YOU to send them money first;
- “Purchase” something you have for sale for MORE THAN THE SALE PRICE, but needs YOU to send them money first.
- “Award” you with money from the government, a dead uncle, a disgraced prince, etc., and needs YOU to send them money or personal information.
- “Collect” taxes, IRS penalties, or any other governmental fees via telephone or email.
The IRS will never call you to collect information via telephone, nor will they email you to collect sensitive information over email. Your bank, your credit card company, or most other financial providers will always send you secure communications via email with an email extension to match (i.e., @wellsfargo.com; @discovercard.com, etc.). If you get a call, and you have no idea if you are being scammed or not, ask the caller for their full name and telephone number, and follow the instructions below to verify their identity online.
If your phone or email provider is warning you…heed the warning.
Although you may be tempted to answer a call from an unknown number or open and respond to an email with a strange subject-line, you are better off doing an internet search first. Your voicemail is your best friend. Scammers will almost never leave a voicemail. If you get a call from an unknown number and the caller does not leave a voicemail, it’s likely that they are a scammer. If you call them back and the number is disconnected or leads to a dead dial tone, they are a scammer.
Many phone and email providers will now issue warnings when you are receiving suspected spam. Searching the internet can help you weed through 99.9% of spam.
How do I use the internet to determine who is a scammer and who isn’t?
The internet is the best resource for weeding through real and fake emails and telephone calls. The online community generally weighs in on scam numbers and emails to help other users avoid the same pitfalls.
Most of the time, a simple search on a search engine (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) for the subject line of the email in question, or the telephone number associated with the suspected call, should reveal a list of websites with users who have come across the same kind of scams.
Scam numbers can sprout up overnight and dial thousands of people before anyone realizes they exist. Checking an unknown telephone number over the internet not only enables you to cross reference the scam number with every other internet user, but it gives you proof that this number couldn’t possibly be targeting you specifically. Auto-dialers are, unfortunately, never going to go away. Make sure you are searching unknown numbers online to eliminate ever falling for an autodialer again.
Most internet search results yield websites that identify “who owns a number.” Clicking through some of these websites will tell you whether or not a number is actually owned by a person, or if it is just a scam number. Make sure to look for comments that others may have left regarding the number. In the example above, users label the number as a “scam” and “telemarketer.”
Sometimes, these callers may even appear as though they are calling from local numbers, so it is imperative that you use all of the resources available to you to avoid falling for a scammer.
Someone contacted me to buy my ad. Are they a scammer?
As we mentioned above, if someone is interested in buying something that you have listed for sale on Craigslist.org, Villages-News.com Classifieds, or another classifieds website, they will never give you more money than your asking price. There are no exceptions. When a scammer asks if you “received the money” they sent to you, simply wait and ignore. If they actually send you money (which will never happen), you can always send the item then. If they say they are sending you additional money so that you may pay a third party for shipping or some other service, they are a scammer.
If someone is asking for far more contact information than is listed in your classified listing (i.e., they want your name, address, email, phone number, postal code, etc.), disregard the request and contact the website to notify them. It’s imperative that you report scammers so that others can avoid the same pitfalls.
If someone sends an email with broken English, that sounds as if English is not their first language, 99.9% of the time you are dealing with a scammer. Everyone makes spelling and grammatical mistakes, but if someone sounds like they are writing to you from India, Indonesia, China, or any other country, they most likely are. And they most likely want to scam you.
One last tip for now…
The most important, and perhaps most unfortunate, thing to remember is this: The world is filled with people trying to take advantage of the niceness and naïveté of others. Don’t ever let your pride or misunderstanding let you make a mistake. For as many scammers that exist on the internet, there are just as many people who seek to help others identify those scammers, and there are just as many websites and search engines that will allow you to research those scammers as well. For as many autodialers, there are more voicemails. Use the tools that we have available to weed through scammers and when in doubt, contact organizations like Villages-News.com, Crime Stoppers, and others to help you navigate.