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Women's Initiative Blog

Stop, Think, and Listen

A recent Women’s Initiative program highlighted some of the top scams and how to avoid them. Our presenter was Deb Reiter, CEO and Chief Technology Advisor, CMIT Solutions. Deb is a member of the Women’s Initiative and also is a member our Roundtable for women business owners. Deb highlighted the following helpful suggestions and reminders that can help us stay safe.  Please share this information with friends and family.

In 2020 the Federal Trade Commission received more that 2.2 million reports about fraud, totaling nearly $3.3 billion in losses to consumers. 

You are the most important defense in fighting and recognizing a scam.

Stop, think, and listen -If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Here are some of the top scams listed on the Consumer Protection website:

  • Government Imposters
  • Banking Scams
  • Telemarketing and Phone Scams
  • Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
  • Romance/Online Dating Scams
  • Medicare and Insurance Scams
  • The Grandparent Scam (Family Emergency)
  • Doorstep Scams

Four signs that it's a scam:

  1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.
  2. Scammers say there is a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.
  3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.
  4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

What you can do to avoid a scam:

  • Don't give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you DIDN'T EXPECT.
  • RESIST the pressure to ACT IMMEDIATELY.
  • NEVER pay with a gift card or money transfer.
  • STOP and talk to someone you trust.
  • BLOCK unwanted calls and text messages.

Government Imposter scams are one of the most prevalent scams; they start as an email or phone call.

Anatomy of a Government Imposter Scam by Email

  • Grabs your attention with a threat "Temporary Suspension Notice" - creates an emotional reaction (for example, your driver's license is suspended).
  • Imposter uses the Official Logo (they copy the Secretary of State logo).
  • Your information is required.
  • Conveys a sense of urgency " soon as possible."
  • Delete these emails, don't click on any link, don't reply to the email.

Grandparent Scam (Family Emergency)

  • Phone call from scam artist poses as your grandchild.
  • Gives an excuse why their voice sounds different (broken nose).
  • She is frantic - in trouble and needs money.
  • Says something bad will happen to her if you can't send money right away.
  • Begs you to keep this a secret - "Don't tell Mom and Dad!"
  • Wants money as a cash card or gift card.

Grandparent Scam: What Not to Do (Source

  • Don't volunteer information.
  • Don't drop your guard because the caller ID looks familiar.
  • Don't be rushed into making a decision.
  • Don't send cash or gift cards. Scammers prefer those payments.
  • Don't panic - that will distract you from spotting the ruse.

Grandparent Scam: What To Do (Source

  • Ask questions the caller is unlikely to be able to answer.
  • Tell the caller you will call right back - then call your grandchild's usual number.
  • Verify the story with other family members. Scammers plead with you to keep the emergency a secret.
  • Trust your instincts - "If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't."
  • Set the privacy settings on your social media accounts so only people you know can access your posts and photos.

Doorstep Scams

These scams target vulnerable, lonely people who are more likely to let them in for a chat. 85% of doorstep scam victims are over 65.

How Doorstep Scams Work

  • THE IMPOSTER - One or two people show up at your door.
  • THE TRICK - A convincing story that requires them to come inside, give them money, check something, or sign a contract.
  • THE PAYOFF - While you are distracted one of them steals your money or valuables.

Doorstep Scams – What to do:

  • Be on your guard - turn away any uninvited person who shows up at your door, regardless of their story.
  • Keep your home secure - don't let ANY stranger into your home. No appointment? No entry.
  • Do not go outside with anyone so they can 'show' you something. This is when an accomplice will try and access your home.
  • If they say they are from a utility company, close the door and call the utility to verify. If you find they are not who they said they were, call the police.

Romance Scams

Romance Scammers often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States: working on an oil rig, in the military, or a doctor with an international organization. People lost $304 million to these scams in 2020. (FTC website)

Romance Scammers ask for money to:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts

Tips to Avoid Romance Scams

  • Do not accept a male ‘friend’ request from someone you do not know on Facebook.
  • DO NOT SEND MONEY!  If an online date asks you to send money, it is a scam.
  • BE SUSPICIOUS! If an online romance is getting very serious, but the person is never able to meet face-to-face nor webcam, it is a scam.
  • CHECK THE FACTS! Research what they are telling you.
  • Scammers ask people to pay by wiring money with reloadable cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes.
  • NEVER AGREE to open a bank account for someone, transfer money or re-ship goods they send you. These are signs of money laundering, which is a criminal offense.

Visit either Itasca Bank location to pick up a Women’s Initiative keychain imprinted with Stop Think Listen as a reminder to protect yourself from scams.

Diane Middlebrooks
Women's Initiative Coordinator


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