An increasing number of consumers are being targeted in new and sophisticated scams involving online dating. In such instances, unsuspecting victims are being forced into sending money- sometimes thousands of dollars – to criminals through PayPal or other well-known online payment services.
In our area, there have been reports of victims having long-term conversations with a person they believe to be an adult. After weeks, or even months of conversations, photos are exchanged and the victim is sent a photo of someone who is clearly a child or teen. Most victims immediately end online conversation at this time, but then begin to receive phone calls from someone claiming to be a parent. The individual is told that the parent intends to sue the victim, claiming he/she is liable for psychological damage made to the minor. In many cases, the call appears credible because the fraudsters use spoofing techniques to link the phone number to an actual police office. Thus, when the victim calls back, they believe that they were called from the local police station.
Call spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate a call is from someone other than the true originating source. For example, a Caller ID might display a phone number from an actual law enforcement office instead of from the scammer.
The American Bankers Association also offers the following information on how to avoid and/or respond quickly to scams:
- Don’t give your social security number or other personal credit information about yourself to anyone who contacts you.
- Don’t open email or attachments from unknown sources, and use virus detection software.
- Tear up receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Keep an eye out for any missing mail.
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active, indicating a secure transaction.
- Never give out personal financial information in an email.
- Never give out personal financial information over the phone unless you have initiated the contact.
- When using social networking sites, never include personal contact information including birth date, email addresses, physical address, mother’s maiden name or other information that could provide sensitive information to fraudsters or hints to passwords.
- Protect your PINs (don’t carry them in your wallet!) and passwords; use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.