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Oliver: More tips to avoid email, phone scammers

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 7:19 a.m. CDT

Despite the many good people on the planet, there unfortunately are also bad ones who want to separate us from our hard-earned cash. And I’m not even talking about taxes.

Recently I wrote about door-to-door magazine scams. Since then, I’ve received a few more things to look out for.

EMAIL SCAMS: The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office warns residents about email scams that ask recipients to reply, verify or provide information through a provided link. The link takes you to a fraudulent website that “steals” details, such as user names and passwords, bank account details, credit card numbers and other personal information.

Other scams ask you to send money or to “invest” in a business scheme with promises of great returns that never materialize.

The Sheriff’s Office offers these tips:

• Remember that online businesses, including banks and merchants, typically do not ask for personal information through emails.

• Avoid following links sent in emails.

• When asked to reply to an email with personal information, reply in person or by a phone number you are familiar with, not the number the email provides.

• Keep your computer’s antivirus software and firewalls updated.

• Use a secure browser when entering personal information.

• Avoid making purchases or banking in areas with unsecured “free Wi-Fi.”

DEA SCAM: The Drug Enforcement Administration warns us about criminals posing as special agents or other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scam.

The criminals call the victims (usually someone who has bought drugs over the Internet or by telephone) and say they are DEA agents or with another law enforcement agency. They inform the victim that buying drugs over the Internet or by telephone is illegal and that action will be taken against them unless they pay a fine via wire transfer to a designated location, usually overseas.

The DEA never contacts someone to ask for money to make charges go away. If you receive a call like that, you should refuse the demand and report the threat to the DEA at 1-877-792-2873.

MEDIC ALERT ROBO-CALLS: The Better Business Bureau warns consumers about automated calls promising senior citizens a free medical alert system.

The call says that someone has ordered an alert system for the senior. The message then instructs the listener to press a button to speak with a customer service representative to verify shipping information. The representative then asks for the listener’s credit card and personal information.

Here are the BBB’s tips to avoid being a victim:

• Hang up the phone. Do not press any buttons. Don’t even speak.

• If a live person is on the line, ask for the company’s physical address. If the representative refuses to give that out or to provide other identifying information, it most likely is a scam.

• If you are interested, ask for something to be sent in writing.

• Don’t respond to offers to “opt out” of future calls. That alerts the caller that this is a working number.

• Never give your bank or credit card information or your Social Security number to anyone over the telephone.

Clearly, we need to keep on guard whether the scam is in person, by phone or through a computer. 

And from the sounds of it, a healthy dose of skepticism just might keep us from becoming some scammer’s next victim.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at

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