We’re all being bombarded with hundreds of texts, e-mails, and calls from thieves and aggressive sales agents who “aggravate-us-to-death!” And it’s getting worse! Their sly objectives are to trick you into answering unknown-callers using fake local area codes/numbers and responding to malicious e-mails or texts. They claim you’ve won gift cards or been charged for “non-existent” purchases and account renewals. Other schemes alert you about false frozen Amazon, eBay, and bank/credit card accounts because of “unusual activity” or offer free credit reports! They use every imaginable evil pitch to attract you into their sinister traps!
Sneaky Scammers provide links “to clear your account,” “claim your gift,” or “unsubscribe.” Yet, those links plant spying-malware-software on phones/computers that search for passwords and personal information! Once links are engaged, prepare for the worst as deceptive-sly-devils transfer private data, steal your identity, and engage with trusted others. They become YOU and log into accounts to change addresses, charge gift cards, or place Amazon orders using your personal data like e-mails, credit cards, and bank accounts! If you don’t click on the links, they display 800 toll-free numbers which connect to professional-sounding-crooks who can help you “clear up the matter” while extracting your critical accounts during skilled conversations!
Once they implement their terror, your suffering is magnified convincing credit card companies and banks that you’re a victim—a process that could take weeks or months! Then, you travel down another stressful, time-consuming journey requesting new credit cards and notifying all your vendor accounts.
Then, there’s aggressive, slimy marketing!! If you’re drawing social security and/or Medicare, you’re on “the-most-wanted-list.” You’ll hear from unethical, convincing marketers who “falsely promise you unbelievable benefits,” cancel your current insurance, phone, or other plans, and switch you to theirs! Or entice you to place “reverse mortgages” on homes to provide you with all the cash you’ll need in your “golden years!” Others are selling extended car warranties (some I no longer own) or requesting to sell or buy homes!
They don’t easily give up and when you answer, even if you decline their requests, your name/phone number will be stored or sold to other scammers for future attempts as “potential-suckers-who-answer-unknown-callers!”
Let’s curtail the craziness which has been inflicted upon us. It’ll take a little work but is well worth the effort! After I implemented the following strategies, 90% of the unscrupulous callers, scams, e-mails, and texts stopped!
Register personal/business cellphones/landlines with the government’s “Do-Not-Call-Registry:” While it may take time to reach marketers, it’s illegal for them to contact you! But they aren’t known as law-abiding citizens! www.donotcall.gov
Install Carrier-Spam-Filters: Companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile offer free spam filters for cell phones/landlines. Using your Internet browser, type in “How to install (Carrier’s name) spam filter” and follow the directions. Your provider can help if needed.
Fill your phone’s address book: Ensure your cellphone address book includes friends, people who occasionally communicate, relatives, and professionals like doctors. Update contacts daily as individuals call/text/email you to help spam filters and you recognize safe callers whose names will appear in your Caller-ID. Be leery of friends’ e-mails with links or suspicious information since their address book could be hacked.
Activate phone-manufacturer’s-spam-filters: You can prevent spam callers and select desired protection levels. While all phone companies’ smartphones have them, for Apple users, go to Settings, Phone, and scroll down to “Silence Unknown Callers.” If you select this setting, individuals calling who aren’t in your address book will be forwarded as voicemails.
Install the app “NoMoRobo” on your cellphone/landline: The software has 6+ million spam and other marketers on my cellphone that it screens before allowing calls to register on my phone! It costs $20 per year and is worth thousands $$$ because it works!
If you don’t recognize numbers, avoid responding: Accepting unknown callers (that could be spam) makes you a prime target! If callers are important, they’ll leave voice/text messages for you to call them back. Ensure your voicemail is activated without names.
Block unwanted numbers, e-mails, and texts: Deleting aggravating callers won’t stop scammers! For Apple users, look under “Recent calls” or “Voicemails” and select the circled “I” on the right of the number, scroll down, and press “Block this caller.” For e-mails, click on the sender’s address to view true identities. You’ll be surprised at hidden thieves’ e-mail addresses since they appear to be legitimate! Scroll down and block it. For text messages, click on senders, select the “info” icon, and block numbers.
Update your passwords: Make them at least 10 characters long, including upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols that are nearly impossible to decipher. Avoid using similar passwords for different accounts. To prevent thieves from applying for unauthorized credit cards and loans, freeze your four credit bureau accounts and ask your bank to block any money transfers from your accounts unless requested by you.
Facebook, Craig’s List, eBay, and Other Marketing Platforms: Be extremely careful using third-party vendors to sell/purchase products which are vulnerable to personal danger and thieves! Many are selling and buying through eBay and Amazon which include protections. Facebook Marketplace (10 million advertisers) and Craig’s List (40 million monthly ads) are good but carry potential risks. Look for safe ways to use these markets in our future articles.
The Bottom Line: We’re in danger of clever individuals wanting money, wasting time, and irritating us. Simply put, don’t click on links, respond to unknown communications, unsafely transfer monies, or share personal/financial information! The steps in this article take a little time each day but are well worth the effort!
What advice would Ben Franklin provide us today about these offensive attacks? “An ounce of prevention avoids tons of stress, losses, and headaches!”
Mike DuBose has been a staff member with USC’s graduate school since 1986 when he began his family of companies. He is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Please visit our blog for additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.
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