What is it about Homosassa Springs, Florida that it is the Metropolitan Statistical Area with the most reported scams per 100,000 population? But that’s how it comes up in a Federal Trade Commission report on consumer fraud for 2017, as boiled down state-by-state by ADT, the home & business security company.
In Citrus County on Florida’s west coast, which is what the Homosassa Springs MSA encompasses, debt collection scams are the most common. In fact, attempts to get you to pay non-existent debts to credit card companies, for bank loans or to the IRS are nationally the most common type of scam, Florida is the state with the most of it and the state with the most of all frauds, as reported per 100,000 population. The fraudsters seem to prefer robocalls over any other method of contacting people.
The other two top scams, as reported by consumers to the FTC and other agencies with whom they collect the numbers, are imposter scams and identity theft.
Imposter scams covers a wide variety of frauds, including where the caller, or maybe an email, claims to be someone from the government – like the IRS – or they claim to be from Microsoft or another tech company saying that they somehow know your computer is infected & they can fix it, for a price – or a call or email claiming your friend or grandkid is in trouble & has lost their wallet/credit card/passport and needs you to wire them money.
Identity theft, where your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers are stolen or fraudulently obtained is actually down slightly, according to these reports, as are scams overall, but compared to 2001, these reported frauds are almost 10 times more common, affecting 2.68-million people in 2017. At least that’s how many bothered to report it to the FTC or law enforcement. Some people are too embarrassed at having been “taken” to admit it.
While scammers do target us, the older generations, according to the reports it’s your kids or grandkids who seem most likely to be scam victims, with 40% of those aged 20-29 reporting losing money, as opposed to only 18% of those over 70. Of course, that might be because younger people are more likely to report being scammed. One recent British study said only more than one-third of people over 65 would admit to being defrauded.
And it is the older demographic that reports losing the most money to scammers, a median loss of $600 to $1100 by those over 70, but only $400 by those in their 20s. Again, based on who reported what scams to law enforcement or the FTC.
How do you prevent being scammed? Start with a heavy dose of skepticism or even outright suspicion if you get a call or email from someone you don’t recognize. Remember the IRS never calls anyone about missing payments or back taxes, they send a letter through the Postal Service. If someone calls or emails claiming to be your bank or credit card company and wants your full account or Social Security numbers – hang up, delete the email – because your bank already has those numbers and would ask at most for your “last four.”
Microsoft, Apple, Symantec, McAfee – any tech companies – have no way to know your computer is “infected” and they wouldn’t call you to say so. Hang up, or if a message pops up that you don’t recognize on your computer, take the computer to someone you trust about computers, or call them about it.
Gmail, Yahoo & other providers all automatically include or offer spam or “junk” mail filtering – use it and believe it – because 99% of the time those filters are correct, especially on viruses and other malignant content.
As for scam phone calls, until Verizon, AT&T and the other carriers get more serious about blocking known robocalls & other frauds, use a service such as Nomorobo, which we’ve written about before, to disrupt such calls to your landline or mobile phone. Hiya is a so far free app for Android & iPhone that identifies scam callers & can send them to voicemail.
You may have heard all this before, but it bears remembering and repeating to friends & family members, especially – as the numbers show – those in their 20s and your parents or grandparents, because the scammers are not going away.