Red Flags to Help Recognize Scams and Prevent Falling Victim

With scams on the rise, Pasco Sheriff’s Office is sharing red flags to recognize a scam to prevent potential victims from falling for deceitful gimmicks. Scammers commonly use fear and technology schemes to try to con their victims. Most scams are different variations of the same old trick: try to intimidate people into handing over valuable information or hard-earned money. These tips can help you stay ahead of a potential scammer’s tricks.

Scammers often pretend to be from an organization you know. Criminals may use a real organization’s name, such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, Medicare and even PSO. Sophisticated scammers use new technology to disguise their cons to make them seems like legitimate calls or emails. They disguise phone numbers or use emails with similar names to legitimate companies. Scammers sometimes use victims’ personal information, which they gather from public record searches to attempt to validate their hoax. Recently, criminals have tried to pose as actual PSO members by obtaining employee names from PSO’s website, social media and other interactions. 

Honest institutions will not contact individuals for their personal information. Scams may try to obtain personal information from victims, such as social security numbers, account numbers or credit card information. Don’t provide your personal information to an unsolicited request. Do not read an email, click a link or open an attached file from someone you don’t know or aren’t expecting. Using security software or multi-factor authentication and conducting software updates can help protect against scams which occur online.

Scams often have an urgent demand to act immediately. Wrongdoers pressure victims to act immediately, without time to process things, verify the accuracy of the request or discredit their false claim. Scammers may threaten to increase the amount owed if the victim ends the call, sends a text or contacts anyone to keep potential victims on the line. By resisting the pressure to act immediately, a scam can be avoided. Calling an organization back using contact information from an account statement or an official website can help decipher if a phone call is legitimate. If the business has a local branch, such as a bank, visit the local branch to have an employee assist in verifying a call or email’s claim. Honest businesses will provide a window of time to make decisions or resolve a monetary issue.

Requesting a specific form of payment is a red flag of a scam. Scammers will often instruct potential victims to send money through ways that are difficult to trace or are less regulated. This includes wire transfers, gift cards or using money transfer apps such as Venmo, Zelle or Cash App. Sending money in a specific form can be the same as sending cash, with little ways to trace or recover it. Many legitimate businesses or government agencies do not accept payments in these forms either. Once the funds are sent using these methods, they are usually gone for good!

If you see the red flags of a scam, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Don’t allow criminals to rush you to act quickly. When in doubt about suspicious behavior over the phone, disconnect the call and report it to law enforcement. Rapid reporting can help stop crime, and protect others from becoming a victim.

The best defense against fraud and scams is awareness. Share these tips with your friends, family and neighbors to help spread the message. Interested in learning more about specific scams seen in Pasco County? PSO routinely shares common scams on our social media platforms;  follow our pages to learn more and stay up-to-date with crime trends.

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