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But, just as with magic tricks, ruses lose their power when you know exactly how they work. Here’s the lowdown on eight hot scams, cons and swindles that criminals are employing to separate you from your money, along with a few strategies for avoiding them.
The scam: Your get an automated call: Suspicious charges have been detected on your credit or debit card. Press “2” for a live attendant, who will reinstate your card after “confirming” personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, account number and date of birth.
Another settled for a .9 million judgment, he says. If you don’t recognize a charge, call your phone company for an explanation, Pozza says, and request a refund for anything you didn’t authorize.
Some phone companies also allow you to block third-party billing. When it finds a pattern of “cramming,” it can take action, says Pozza.
Also, criminals favor payment via wire transfer or anonymous online payer networks, he says.
The solution: The best defense is preventive, says Savage.
Criminals playing the odds may even mention your actual bank by name and that, plus the robo-calling feature, “makes it seem more credible,” says Gary K.
The tipoff: Government agencies and private software companies don’t lock up computers and assess fines.You could be a victim of “cramming.” Many phone companies allow you to pay for third-party services by having charges added to your phone bill. But sometimes scammers attempt to have phantom fees added to those bills, says Duane Pozza, an attorney in the financial practices division of the Federal Trade Commission.The scam gets its name from the fact that third-party operations are “cramming” their bogus charges onto real phone bills.Another variation: A text “alert” from your bank or cellphone company that your account’s been frozen. But with a scam, that link leads to a look-alike site that thieves use to harvest personal information, says King.The solution: Skip the link, and just log in to your account as usual, he advises.