By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Havoc breaks out in Katrina Webbs’ home, as she learns that someone has stolen $359 out of her checking account, causing her account to be overdrawn with bounced checks and fees.
“I used my debit card at a local gas station, a couple of weeks ago,” she recalls. “Someone must have hacked my pin number. My bank sent me an email stating that my account was overdrawn. When I looked online, there were charges made to my card that I didn’t make. I’m disputing them, but I’m mad as hell, because some of my bill payments were returned and I was charged a $35 fee for three checks. The bank allowed my Edison and rent payment to go through, but I’m still not happy. Just when I thought I was ahead, this puts me back into debt. I’m hoping my bank will reverse the charges.”
Webbs was the victim of a popular scam in 2015, where a predator uses a scanner to retrieve your card and pin number. Then, they go online or to an ATM to withdraw funds from your account. First, a small amount is withdrawn. Then, they take out larger amounts, until the transaction is rejected.
As a result, banks are now issuing new debit cards with chips to prevent others from falling victim to the scam.
Bringing in the New Year brings new scams.
With the tax season approaching, filers are cautioned to beware of phony IRS and representatives. Callers claiming to be with the IRS may demand money to pay taxes. Some may try to con you by saying that you’re due a refund. The refund is a fake lure so you’ll give them your banking or other private financial information.
“These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may even know a lot about you. They may alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling,” warns the IRS on their website. “They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.”
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what to do:
•If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to talk about payment options. You also may be able to set up a payment plan online at IRS.gov. •If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov. •If phone scammers target you, also contact the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” to report the scam. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Debit and credit card users should also beware of individuals offering to send them a replacement card. Scammers will call and request your banking information, so that they can send you a new card with a smart chip. Always go into your financial institution or contact them directly to obtain a new card to avoid your financial information from getting into the hands of a scammer.
"Delays in distributing the new cards are being exploited by scammers," said Scambusters.org founder Audri Lanford. "The problems are that some card issuers have not yet sent them out to their customers while other issuers haven't fully explained in understandable language why their cards have been changed. Either way, this gives scammers a golden opportunity to phone or email people explaining that their cards need to be updated or replaced and then ask them to confirm card and account details."
Individuals should also be leery of the upcoming 2016 election season scams. It may difficult to determine who is running a legitimate campaign. Check with the elections bureau to determine, who is running
"I would suggest using your caller ID as a reference point, and if there is any uncertainty, ask for a call-back number," says Wade Barnes, senior vice president for 1st Mariner Bank. "Better yet, if you'd like to donate to a political campaign, I would go to their website, check for the 'https://authentication', and donate there or follow instructions as to where you can mail a check."
Some may be confronted with a jury duty scam. Callers may contact you threatening legal repercussions and fines, because you did not show up for jury duty. To avoid paying the fine or penalty, they may request you provide personal information.
“Realistically, courts are too busy to call those who miss jury duty, and they wouldn't fine someone who has been approved to get out of jury duty," explains Robert Siciliano, a best-selling author and identity theft expert. “Although failing to report for jury duty does have consequences, the action is never initiated via phone."
Whereas using telephones is a popular means for scams, social media is also being used. Scammers may befriend you on Facebook or some other form of social media. Then, they may arouse your curiosity with a fantastic offer or unusual news item and request you click on a link for additional information. Clicking on the link could trigger a virus to be downloaded onto your computer or spyware, where scammers can obtain your personal information and contacts on your email. Many have fallen victim to emails being sent on their behalf to your contacts requesting money or other items. When the recipient opens the email, their computer may be unknowingly attacked by a computer virus.
As Webb seeks to recover funds taken out of her account, the experience has made her more cautious of potential scams that may be attempted in the New Year.
“It’s like you have to have eyes in the back of your head to watch out for scammers that could come out of anywhere,” she says. “This year I’m going to be more careful. I’m no longer using my debit card. I’ll switch to credit, because they can’t get my pin. It’s an expensive lesson that I hope no one else has to experience. But, I’ll be damned, if I get scammed again.”