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Internet users: Beware of scams!

I have been using the Internet for many years via my iPhone and computer. It has been a very useful tool, however on occasion, it has been a mixed blessing, due to my falling for costly, embarrassing scams on more than one occasion. I'll cite two recent examples:

A couple of years ago, I had a “PayPal” account that I had used for many years for my online eBay sales. Since moving to Regency, I wasn't doing eBay anymore so wanted to retrieve whatever balance I had in the account. To find PayPal's contact phone number, I Googled “PayPal” and obtained (what appeared to be) their official phone number.

A gentleman answered and said he'd be happy to assist me. I just needed to follow his instructions. Over the next few hours, I dutifully followed his directions transferring monies from my bank account to various destinations he specified. He told me to call my bank to authorize them to approve the fund transfer requests that I was doing at this time, which I did.

When I questioned him about this, he said “this was just the way it had to be done if I wanted to retrieve my funds and that you will get all of your money back.” When I politely suggested that this might be a scam, he replied, ”hey, you're the one who called me.”

I'm embarrassed now when I recall how naive and foolishly trusting I was to do what he was telling me to do. To make a long story short, after a few hours and several transfers from my bank account to his destinations (nearly wiping out my bank balance), he instructed me to call him the next morning to complete the

process.

After I hung up the phone, I guess the spell was broken. I decided to call my daughter, who lives nearby, to tell her what was happening. She promptly diagnosed the situation as a scam and called my other daughter in Atlanta to fill her in. Needless to say, I had no more contact with the scammer, ignoring his many urgent phone attempts to contact me.

After my daughters and I contacted my bank, the police, etc., I closed out

my bank account, opened a new one, and submitted a claim to my bank to

recover my funds. The money was never recovered from the scammers.

I was fortunate to (after several months of their verifying that my claim was

legitimate) recover all but $50. I was so grateful that what could have been a catastrophe ended so satisfactorily.

The big question I had was how I was deceived when I googled “PayPal”

and got a bogus site. Apparently, I should have looked at the http. address

which was not the legitimate address for PayPal.

The next scam I fell for transpired as follows: I recently contacted Spectrum to provide my internet service. A couple of weeks later, I received a text message ostensibly from Spectrum informing me, as a new customer, of a special offer to cut my bill in half for the first year. I called the contact phone number. for the details.

According to the “customer service” rep, Spectrum was partnering with Target for this special promotion. I was instructed to purchase gift cards totaling the (discounted) amount of the yearly bill with which I would then pay the first year's bill up front, now. It had to be completed, I was told, by 4 p.m. today, after which the promotion ended.

I made several attempts to purchase the cards online. Although I entered the correct info, it kept getting rejected. I tried a different card and still got rejected. The person said that I could purchase the cards at the local Target, but it had to be

done by 4 p.m.

I panicked because it was already 2:30 p.m. and I had no way to get to Target. I then called my daughter, asking her to purchase the gift cards before 4 p.m. Once I explained my situation, she checked online and determined that it was a scam.

We then called the credit card companies and had my credit cards canceled since they had been compromised by my filling out the online forms with my information. Luckily we acted quickly and no money was lost. I then called the actual Spectrum number who verified that they had no such “promotion.”

After being hoodwinked twice, the message “There's no fool like an old

fool” kept coming into my thoughts.

After much reflection on these experiences, a few thoughts came to mind:

1. The man in the first example spoke fast and directed my actions faster than I had time to think carefully about what I was doing. I was kind of mesmerized and the “spell” was only broken when the call ended and I had a moment to collect my thoughts and apprehensions.

2. Having a degree of discomfort about the experience, it was invaluable to have a trusted knowledgeable person to call to tell what happened and get their perspective.

3. I should have been more thorough in verifying the contact information.

4. I also do not answer any phone calls in which I don't recognize the phone number. If those calls are important, they will leave a voicemail.

These scammers are highly skilled and very professional and seniors are their favorite prey. To quote Dr. David Jeremiah, a Christian minister: “Most at risk are senior citizens who lost about a billion dollars in 2020 due to online scams. A total of 105,301 people over the age of 65 were taken to the cleaners. The average person lost more than $9,000 and almost 2,000 senior citizens lost more than $100,000.”

Bottom line....be very cautious of offers that seem too good to be true because they probably are. Seek out someone with tech savvy whom you can call when something just doesn't seem right.

 

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