Email scams are a part of everyday life, unfortunately. While some are easy to ignore and discard ('greetings my dear madam--you have come into a handsome.....') others are much more sophisticated and seemingly real. From Gene Mundt, mortgage banker in Illinois, comes this 'to do' list if you feel you've fallen prey to a scam. Read this great advice from Gene and keep it handy should you need it.
I don't know where to start first when writing this post and addressing the issues contained within it. I believe there are multiple messages that need to be heard ... and heeded. As you read on, you will see what I mean.
Over this last weekend, I received a call from very upset and frantic clients of mine. They are an older couple that I have known for decades and have become very fond of. This couple is also a long-time husband and wife real estate agent "team" that I have worked with throughout those many years. You just can't find sweeter people anywhere. They have come to mean alot to me.
You could hear the real and tangible fear in both of their voices as they described to me what had occurred to them. While listening, it soon became clear that a scam had been perpetrated on this couple via email ... an email that was definitely no schlock or amateur job. The offending email had looked completely official to them. Logos, addresses, and some telephone numbers in the usual company communique places. It became obvious that the perpetrators had dug-up just enough valid personal information regarding this couple that everything would seem in order when they received the email. And it had .. at first.
Long story, short ...
My client friends called me for guidance on heading-off credit and financial disaster after figuring out that this email was a scam. They wanted advice on where they could start to stop the damage done. Who to call? What precautions should be in place? Telephone numbers? They had given a Social Security number out prior to suspicions arising. They knew that alone was not good. There were so many things they were fearful of now.
My first suggestion was to contact the 3 major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Alerts needed to be placed on their credit. Be aware here: Telephone numbers to credit bureaus can be hard to nail down. They change them every 6 months for security reasons. The numbers and contact information found below is a good place to start your communications. Each bureau will transfer you to the exact department needed, should these numbers not prove to be the most updated numbers available.
P. O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Tel: 800-685-1111
P. O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022 Tel: 800-888-4213
The next suggestion was to call ALL credit card companies and make them aware of the problem that existed. I also recommended that they ask the card companies to cancel all current accounts and reissue new cards. This would alleviate any possibility of fraudulent charges being made on accounts.
ALL banks and credit unions should be contacted immediately too. Debit cards, issued on accounts held, would most likely be replaced, just as the credit cards would be. Alerts will be placed on all accounts that this couple held. The same should apply to any kind of account they hold anywhere. The more alerts placed, the less likely it is that fraud can happen down the road.
My instructions also contained this special note ... Take the names, the direct telephone numbers, and note the time of EACH conversation you have had with ALL those you speak to regarding this issue at EVERY company, bank, or bureau. Should you have to place subsequent calls or make note of a prior conversation, you have full proof of to whom you have spoken. This is very important and I cannot stress it enough. Call it an extra insurance policy for yourself.
Even after helping my friends this weekend, my concern for them seemed to linger on. I was unsettled. How could this problem have been avoided in the first place? These were business people ... aware, intelligent, fairly computer saavy for their generation. Yet still ... here they were facing this issue and scared to death. Plus, how could I help to make sure that this doesn't happen to others?
Anyone could find themselves in the same position. These scammers are intelligent and technologically sophisticated, so no one should fool themselves into thinking that a similar problem cannot happen to them or someone they care for. But in this particular case, I believe that the age of the couple made them more vulnerable to the scam they suffered. Without divulging specifics, everything I heard pointed to this being the case. These scammers were predators.
And that brings me to what I feel might be the most important message of note found within this post. Although it is not easy to have conversations concerning finances and the capabilities that still exist for senior loved-ones to maintain control of their lives ... these conversations MUST be conducted. This is especially the case when the seniors are involved in on-line computer activities. Extra precautions need to be in place. More frequent discussions regarding up-to-date security precautions and protections should also take place.
These waters can be hard to navigate, but each family must learn how to navigate them openly and honestly without trouncing on the independence of the senior or hurting feelings. A family used to fear that a scammer would knock on their senior loved one's front door. Now that feared "knocking" also comes technologically ... and we all must be diligent and prepared.
This weekend reminded me of this very real danger. This weekend reminded to post the important contact information for credit bureaus above. This weekend reminded me to have a talk regarding these issues with my own mother once again. I hope that this post serves as a catalyst for you to have a talk with your loved ones as well ... sooner than later.