24 Apr Are You Making it Easy for Scammers to Find You?
“Hello. This is the Internal Revenue Service. We’re calling about your 2017 tax returns. Please call us back as soon as you receive this message to avoid further penalties.” What? Who wouldn’t freak out when receiving a voicemail like this?
We all get spam and scam phone calls. Most of them are nonsense that we delete or ignore. But this one got my attention. I immediately contacted my longtime CPA and she told me to ignore it. In case this happens to you, the IRS never calls and leaves alarming messages.
How do these people find us? Unfortunately, we may be rolling out the welcome mats
In many cases, we throw the doors wide open and invite these scammers in.
Here are some things you may be doing that invite scammers:
- Frequently entering contests. Online contests are gateways to unwanted sales pitches. Think about it. You’re giving away your valuable information like your name, age and address, if and where you like to travel and other personal preferences.
- Warranty cards. Warranty cards for new appliances often solicit your income range, education level and location. This demographic information is likely being sold to others, either legitimately or as part of a scam. If you’re paying attention, data privacy is key to the legal trouble in which Facebook is immersed.
- Responding to surveys. Does it seem like you can’t perform any transaction anymore without being asked to rate the service? Collecting and then selling survey data is big business, and marketing firms as well as criminals learn a lot about you based on your preferences–what kind of car you drive, the neighborhood in which you live and your income bracket. This information is highly desirable.
- Social media updates. Scammers turn to social media posts to learn more about those they’re targeting. Rethink how much personal data you’re posting to Facebook. All of those fields you happily fill out are fueling scammers. Keep personal information at a high level and permission those with whom you want to share your life. Think seriously before posting your relationship status, your new engagement, home address, phone number, birthday, etc. Never post your social security number.
- Real-time updates about your location. Letting everyone know you’ll be in France during the month of June is an invitation to thieves. But think closer to home. Going to dinner and a play in San Francisco represents four-plus hours away from home—plenty of time for thieves to enter a home and ransack it. Share the details after you get home. Your fans can wait.
- Too much personal data. We live in the United States. Many public records are available at the federal, state, county and city levels, including census data, property information, criminal records, bankruptcies and tax liens. Private companies can pull together all this information on you and sell it to anyone. And it’s 100% legal.
- Probate and obituaries.If you don’t have a Living Trust, your heirs will need to go through Probate. That means publishing a notice of the Probate in the local newspaper. This, along with obituaries, can be further opportunity for scammers who prey on those who are vulnerable. California Document Preparers assists our clients in the preparation of our Living Trust package that also includes a Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive.
- Get a shredder. Shred mail that has your name and address, account numbers, or other personal data.
We seem to feel a need to share the details of our lives with anyone who will listen
Despite the increase in scams and data-privacy issues, we’ve also become surprisingly trusting. We’re forever bound to our mobile phones and love our social channels. We’ve become accustomed to sharing our lives with anyone who’ll pay attention and feel a need to prove that we lead busy, fascinating lives.
Yet we should also become more aware of the information we’re sharing. Posting photos in real time of each course of your French Laundry dinner or your hike up Mount Tam to watch the sunrise reveals to the world you aren’t home — and won’t be for a while. Waiting until you’re home to share your pictures is a better strategy.
A Living Trust is an important part of estate planning. Without it, your family with need to go through Probate, including posting a notice about the estate in the local newspaper. A Trust also needs to be updated with important life events. Schedule an appointment today by contacting us at one of our three Bay Area offices. Our dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.