Scammers use anything they can in order to trick their targets. The con artists have begun to say that they are from government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers have been targeting the FTC lately as a way to convince people that they’ve won prizes in contests they have never entered. Using the FTC as a way to scam people is ironic as the independent government agency tracks and prosecutes scammers.
Thieves call random people and say that they are employees or representatives of the FTC. The scammers tell the people that that they’ve won prizes in a sweepstakes or lottery. The “representatives” often give names and office phone numbers of real agency personnel. The person listens to the call but is eventually asked for personal information and, of course, money. The thieves take the information and the money and disappear, while the victim has little or no recourse. Banks often protect people against fraud, so the scams usually involve paying through cash apps, wire transfers, or gift cards.
The FTC is running a campaign to stop the scams. Government agencies never run sweepstakes or lotteries, nor do they ask for money.
Callers may also say that you owe money to the IRS or court system. Anyone who claims to work for the government is probably a scammer. The FTC has written a guide on identifying the calls and what to do to avoid being a victim.
- Someone calls and says you’ve won a prize but you must send money to receive the prize.
- The caller offers to help victims of scams recover their money.
- You owe money to the government or IRS. If you don’t pay, you will be arrested.
- You have unpaid debts and your bank account will be frozen until you pay.
Receiving a Call
If you receive a suspicious call, hang up. Do not press 1 to be removed or give out your personal information. The caller may make threats but do not respond. You can block calls on your iPhone or Android if the number is in the form of a standard number. Scammers use different numbers to confuse targets, so be aware of strange numbers.
Notify law enforcement if the caller makes any type of threats. You should also report the call to ftc.gov/complaint. Include the following:
- Date and time of the call
- Content of any text messages
- The name of the company used by the caller
- If a prize was offered, note the amount of the prize amount.
- How much money were you were asked to send? What was the requested payment method?
- Give the caller’s phone number. Scammers use untraceable Internet phone numbers or spoof a phone number registered to the government agency. Although the numbers aren’t real, law enforcement might be able to trace them with a tracking system.
- Note any other details from the call. Be as specific as possible.
The world was shocked when fire broke out at Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the most iconic cathedrals in Paris. People mourned as the centuries-old structure burned and as the spire fell while 400 firefighters fought the fire. Almost immediately, charities – real and fake– began asking for donations to rebuild the French national treasure.
A Cry for Help
Almost 13 million people visit Notre Dame each year. Builders erected the church in Paris 850 years ago. The church houses famous works of art and serves as a museum. It is no surprise that people are willing to dig into their wallets to rebuild the cathedral. Scammers scrambled to create a plan to take advantage of the fire and make some easy money. Thieves set up websites acting as charities and crowdfunding sources to trick the public. Thieves bet people don’t know that the cathedral is owned by the French government. Private citizens, businesses and the government have already amassed billions of dollars in a fund to reconstruct the church.
Con artists play on the emotions of people in the aftermath of disaster. For every natural disaster, accident or act of terrorism, scammers are waiting to collect from the public. They ask for money through websites, social media, email and phone calls. The pleas for money are convincing and never ending. People should take steps to check out any organization before giving any money, even if it’s a good cause.
Researching Charity Organizations
Donors can research charities by logging onto The Federal Trade Commission’s list of organizations that can verify if a charity is real. You can also read news on charities. The article Before Giving to a Charity shows how to donate wisely through social media.
People think that donations are tax deductible. They might give more money because of the deduction. However, donations made to foreign organizations aren’t usually tax deductible. Money given to individuals or crowdfunding sites aren’t tax deductible, either. The IRS can help determine which organizations are tax deductible. You should use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to check eligibility.
How to Avoid Scammers
Telemarketers can be pushy when they ask for money. Companies and scammers use robocalls to make it harder to avoid the demands. If you receive a call from someone asking for money to help rebuild Notre Dame, ask a lot of questions. What is the full name and address of the organization? How will the money be spent? Does the organization use the money for admin costs or marketing expenses? If you are unsure of the person calling, hang up and research the charity online. If the calls continue, use an app to block unwanted numbers from your phone.
How to Report Fraud
If you think you’ve been scammed by a fake charity, report it to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. Give as much information as possible. Second, if you have used a bank account or credit card to make the donation, contact the company right away to block the payment. Lastly, you should also report the event to your state’s Attorney General.
Landlines, or old fashioned telephones, are still in use by businesses and homes across the country. Landlines use a physical connection to a metal cable or a fiber optic wire to connect to a series of telephone poles which lead to a central dispatch system. On the other hand, cell phones are wireless devices that work through the use of radio waves. While cell phones have the market share in the telecommunications industry, due to their convenience, Internet access, text messages services and mobility, there is still a place in our world for landlines.
Businesses rely on phones to communicate with their clients and vendors. Using a landline allows the business to make a connection with the outside world and also gives a sense of professionalism and stability. Additionally, landlines can have multiple handsets, multiple phone lines, and dispatch systems.
Cell phone services aren’t always available in rural areas. People can use landlines any place there is a telephone pole. Additionally, landlines offer accessibility features cell phones do not – oversized keys, extra loud ringer settings, the ability to attach touch screens, flashing lights for the hearing impaired, voice activation for the vision impaired, Braille-based devices, transcription units, improved clarity, etc.
Landlines are reliable in cases where cell phones are not. They work in situations where cell phone calls can be fuzzy or dropped. Landlines are also less likely to be affected by bad weather, and if they are, their repair is at the top of the list for phone companies.
Many people, especially seniors, find landlines to be more comfortable to use than cell phones. The larger handset makes it easier and more comfortable to use while multi-tasking, such as typing, taking notes, cooking or washing the dishes.
Landlines are cheap, particularly compared to cell phones. You can buy a landline at a yard sale and it will work with any service. Plus, the monthly cost of local service is around $30.
Everyone is concerned with security. In the age of identity theft and hackers, using a landline is much safer than a cell phone. The data from a landline is transmitted through a fixed medium where cell phone calls are transmitted via radio waves. Hackers can easily tap into cell phone calls. In order to tap into a landline, bugging devices need to be physically attached to the phone and/or the line.
Previously, landlines did not offer the same options as cell phones when it came to caller ID or tracing a phone number. That is no longer true.
Landlines offer a connection to emergency services that cell phones cannot. When calling from a landline, the dispatcher has immediate knowledge of your location, even if you are cut off. Callers using cell phones must give their phone number and location before reporting the emergency. If a call is dropped or has poor quality, the information may be lost. These issues can pose a threat and waste precious time in an emergency situation.
Parents use tracking apps to stay abreast of their children’s whereabouts and to keep them safe. The apps use GPS and other technology to see the child’s location. The apps can see who the kids are talking to and what websites they visit. The tools help parents by giving them peace of mind and to prevent dangers to children. No one can say bad things about using the technology for this purpose. People can also track other family members. The apps are helpful when friends or family are separated in crowded places like airports, concerts or amusement parks. They can track adults that have medical issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The Down Side
Jealous lovers, nosy employers and others often use the same technology to spy on others. The person being tracked often doesn’t know. In addition, the apps allow others to take down phone numbers. The can use an iPhone cell phone trace app or similar program to learn the identity and location of the third party. One attorney reported a 40% increase in his divorce caseload since the technology was introduced.
Popular Tracking Apps
Some apps allow users to track GPS as well as cell phones, including the person’s travel history. People can buy and use the following legal apps to trace others:
Users can download Find My Friends for Android and iPhone. It tracks people on your contact list and allows you to know where they are at any given time. It syncs with maps and contacts on iPhones.
This app is equal parts useful and scary. It was designed for iPhone or iPad and allows users to track anyone on their contact lists. Users don’t use a virtual check-in like FourSquare, but location settings allow this type of app to check location as well as your photos and status updates.
Kids love Halloween. However, it can be a scary time for parents if the children wander off to see decorations or go to the house that offers the best candy. Kids wearing costumes make it difficult to find the right child, especially if the costume is popular and worn my many. The free app is downloaded onto all connected phones and can alert parents if the child leaves a previously determined area. Users can use the app all year long. Also, latchkey kids can ping their parents when they arrive home.
Phone Tracker uses mapping and GPS technology to track people like family members and employees. Users don’t need to have the app engaged for it to work and will also track a target’s movements over the past 24 hours, within 30 feet.
AccuTracking was designed for company use to track vehicles using GPS. It was introduced over a decade ago and is used primarily for desktop or laptop computers. Users that download the app is not supported by some phones, including iPhones.
Using tracking apps can be a godsend when it comes to safety, however, they should be used with caution if tracking an unsuspecting target.
Scammers target senior citizens every day and the numbers are rising. Scammers target the elderly. Elders have financial stability, vulnerability, and tendency to act on emotion. Seniors are also less tech savvy. Scammers know seniors are less likely to use tools to avoid scams via phone, email and direct mail. Criminals use scams that play on their emotions, including fear. One report showed that, in 2011, seniors were robbed of nearly $2.9 billion dollars. People who robbed seniors are strangers (51%), family, friends, and neighbors (34%), fake businesses (12%), and scams on Medicare/ Medicaid (4%).
Consumer groups have created guides on reporting scam phone calls. A popular scam is one by fake IRS reps. The fake rep claims that the senior has back taxes owed to the government. The calls scare people into giving out bank information or face jail time. Seniors targeted by phony IRS representatives should report the activity to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Victims can report online or call 1-800-366-4484.
People should report other scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Secondly, reporting phone scams to local police and the Attorney General’s office is important.
Seniors can also use an iPhone caller ID app to screen calls and help to prevent scams.
Fake suitors target people over 50 for romance scams. The percentage of people looking for online romance is the highest in this age range. Scammers claim their love for their victims almost immediately, and then ask for money. They are not available to meet in person and are usually suffering some form of emergency or personal tragedy. If this happens to you, refuse to send any money and report them to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Scammers can trick seniors by using direct mail or “junk mail” scams. Lottery and sweepstakes contests are popular scams. Consumer groups have developed several websites devoted to reducing or eliminating direct mail. The AARP has a list of companies that can help. Others include:
CatalogChoice helps you to opt-out of getting specific catalogs in the mail.
DMAchoice is a website that helps to manage your mail received at home.
OptOutPrescreen can help you to opt-out of getting credit card offers in the mail.
SeniorNet is a non-profit organization that educates seniors on computers. They have also created a guide on how to detect mail fraud.
If you suspect that an offer received in the mail is too good to be true, call the company who sent the offer for more information.
Cell phone users are inundated with detailed articles about cell phone security. Techies provide complicated methods to protect against hackers. What about the less savvy? I’ve prepared for you some tips to protect your phone.
Keep Tabs on Your Phone
Millions of people lose their phones every year, with most of them being stolen. In 2014, 2.1 million cell phones were reported stolen. The person who finds your phone can access your information, including name, address, and account information on everything from your bank to Instagram. When you are out in public, keep your phone accessible but out of the way of thieves and pickpockets.
Lock Your Phone
Use a screen lock for your phone. Choices include fingerprint ID, password, pattern lock, PIN, and facial recognition. If your phone is lost or stolen, the person trying to get into your phone will have a much harder time if it’s protected.
Use a Tracking App
Tracking apps are used by users for various reasons including locating family members, especially children. However, they are also important if your phone goes missing. There are many apps that will allow you to do both. Be sure to test it before you need it to find a lost phone.
Avoid Free Wi-Fi
Free Wi-Fi is tempting to users addicted to their phones. However, the services are not secure and can leave you vulnerable to users waiting to steal your information. If you need to use free Wi-Fi, limit what you use while connected to the service. Avoid logging in to any important accounts such as your bank or credit card. When you are finished with whatever you’re doing, log off. Cafes and airports offer Wi-Fi that is generally safe, but take precautions all the same. Never log in to an unknown open network.
Do Not Click That Link
Random texts asking you to click on a link are always suspect. They can allow hackers to access your information or install viruses or malware on your phone. If you receive a random text (too often with a “too good to be true” offer), do not reply. Delete it immediately. You can also use an app to trace unknown callers on your iPhone.
Teach Your Kids Phone Safety
Kids use cell phones more than grown-ups and should be aware of how to protect their phones – and themselves. Teach phone safety as soon as your child gets his first phone.
Update Your Apps
Many phones are equipped with apps to prevent viruses and the installation of spyware and malware. As a result, many users feel safe and forget that the apps need to be updated on a regular basis. New software is released every day, and an outdated phone may not be able to detect and prevent hacking and viruses. Phone updates should be routinely installed to ensure that bugs have been fixed and protections are engaged.
Following these simple tips will help users to stay safe and enjoy their phones as they were meant to be enjoyed.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports a dramatic increase in phone scams. Senior citizens are targets for scammers claiming to be from the SSA. The reason for the call? To tell the senior his/her Social Security number has been suspended. The caller states there has been fraudulent or criminal activity with the card. The number is suspended to protect the real card holder.
“They say to call a number to clear it up — where they’ll ask you for personal information,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. “The caller pretends to be protecting you from a scam while he’s trying to lure you into one.”
The SSA does not suspend Social Security numbers. Not for any reason. There is no cost to reinstate it. Despite the caller’s claims, it’s a scam.
If you receive a call from an alleged SSA representative, use a free reverse phone book app for iPhone to verify the number. Some scammers spoof the SSA’s customer service number — 1-800-772-1213 — to take the scam a step further.
SSA Warns Citizens
“Unfortunately, scammers will try anything to mislead and harm innocent people, including scaring them into thinking that something is wrong with their Social Security account and they might be arrested,” said Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone. “I encourage everyone to remain watchful of these schemes and to alert family members and friends of their prevalence. We will continue to track these scams and warn citizens so that they can stay several steps ahead of these thieves.”
- The SSA rarely, if ever, calls people on the phone. They communicate by mail.
- Be aware that the SSA will not make threats.
- Do not give them your bank account number.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number.
- Ignore demands from automated calls.
- Never give or confirm information.
- Don’t assume the call, text, or email is legitimate. Again, contact people by mail.
- Check all phone numbers using an iPhone reverse cell search app.
- Do not engage the person on the phone.
- Block phone numbers you suspect to be fake.
- Contact government agencies directly in person, through verified phone numbers, or through their website.
- Contact government agencies directly, using telephone numbers and website addresses you know to be legitimate.
If someone has tried to steal your personal information by pretending to be from the government, report it to the FTC. Also, report suspicious calls to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online.
Readers often ask if it’s possible to look up phone numbers for free. Many sites offer free White Pages, cell phone numbers or reverse lookups. However, what they deliver is bad information, limited information, or require payment for a premium service. Some sites refer you to a separate paying site. In effect, I have never found a completely free site or app with complete and accurate information. Don’t despair. There are several efficient and accurate apps that will supply the information you seek. Some are more expensive and more difficult to use so it is wise to request a trial before committing to a membership. Popular sites include CallerSmart, BeenVerified, Intelius, and Spokeo.
What Free Phone Lookup Apps Offer
Not all apps are created equal, and some are better than others. I have done extensive research on free apps using known information. It is common to receive bad or incomplete information. I have routinely encountered the following issues:
Faulty or Outdated Information
Approximately 50% of the information found on free phone lookup sites is outdated or incorrect. I searched my personal information and received an address from 12 years ago. There were ancient phone numbers and a list of relatives and associates that are complete strangers to me. I have used the same process on at least five other people with the same results.
Lack of Address
Many sites mask the address unless you pay for premium service.
No Cell Phone Number
Complete cell phone directories are practically non-existent. Directories that exist are incomplete and are not up to date.
No Reverse Lookup
I use an iPhone reverse cell phone lookup app on a regular basis. Unknown callers clog my phone daily and I want to search the numbers. Free sites will offer to look up the number but give old information or require you to pay for the caller’s name and location.
Why Isn’t it Free?
The sites that offer free information get it from other websites. They make no investment in obtaining or culling information. They simply share a database. Sites that offer accurate information must pay to keep the information current, therefore they pass the fee along to the end user. If you require up to date information and the ability to do a reverse lookup, spend a few dollars and be sure the results are correct.
Image searches are quickly becoming part of everyday life. We use them to look at the latest fashions, find family or friends, or learn the name of a snazzy car we saw on the street. No longer do we have to wonder about anything. Simply snap and upload a picture to one of a dozen image search sites or apps.
How Does it Work?
Most tech savvy people are familiar with image searches. It is a specialized search used to locate digital images. There are several ways to conduct an image search.
- Image meta search – search of digital images based on metadata including keywords, text, etc.
- Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR) – the application used colors, shapes, and textures to identify images rather than relying on keywords and text.
In simple terms, an application or website can use algorithms to identify parts of a photograph and relate them to like content online. The system takes the guesswork out of attempting to find a person or item using keywords. For example, if you see a photograph on a website and want to learn more about the item, you can use an image search to get the name, photographer, or other important information. If a dress in a store window catches your eye, you can take a photo and perform a search that will tell you the name of the designer or other stores in your area or online that carry the item. The goal of many image search companies is to allow their users to search items via pictures rather than words, which may result in irrelevant answers.
Aside from identifying a piece of clothing, image searches can be beneficial for other reasons. Image searches can help you to:
- Locate the source of an image
- Find a higher resolution version of the image
- Get links to web pages where the image appears
- Locate the content creator
- Get more information about the image
- Search identity of persons online
- Find products and services
- Search artwork
- Research travel destinations
Just as iPhone phone number trace services continue to expand, image search developers continue to create bigger and better search engines to entice users to buy their products. Image search engines have recently enabled extensions to be added to browsers to make searching even easier. One click of a button can net the user information on products all over the Internet. Current extensions include Noobox for Chrome and “Search by Image” for Firefox. Each allows you to right-click on an image and choose between different reverse-image tools.
Some popular sites:
Google’s Search by Image allows users to search for images by uploading an image retrieved from a website or by entering an image URL. The system compares the image with billions of other images located in Google’s databases before returning results.
Google has released a new way to search images. The new app for Android and IOS utilizes a powerful search engine to give users information on items around them. Not only does it identify the image, but adds relevant data that might be of interest to the user. This app is similar to Google Goggles.
TinEye is a top search engine that specializes in reverse image searches. The user submits an image to the app, and then TinEye creates a “unique and compact digital signature or fingerprint” of the image before matching it to like images.
Pinterest is at the forefront of the image search field. In 2014, it acquired VisualGraph and introduced the ability to conduct image searches on its site. By using reverse image search technology, Pinterest can extract features from fashion items, e.g., pants, shoes, bags, dress, glasses, jewelry, shorts, swimsuits, and offer product recommendations on items that are similar.
eBay ShopBot uses a reverse image search to locate products by interpreting a user’s uploaded photo.
Russia’s answer to Bing’s search engine will often give comprehensive results although they tend to be more similar than exact in identifying items.
The best image search engines work well on a desktop or laptop computer, but are often lacking when it comes to mobile devices. The upload feature may be disabled, or the pictures will not upload. There are some image search engine titans who are building search features into apps to make the process less painful. Until then, users may have to try their luck, use the desktop version of the sites or turn on their computers.
Free or Pay?
Many image search engines are free, but there are some that charge a small fee, either to search a specific item or as a monthly membership. Read the fine print before you search to avoid any surprises.
Nearly everyone has someone that they’ve lost touch with over the years, whether it’s a classmate, neighbor, aunt, love interest or favorite teacher. Searching for those we’ve lost touch with is made easier through technology. While tracking down those that have moved away might not be easy, searching for family and friends could be just a click away.
Searching through phone apps for information can be arduous unless you pick the right one. Be cautious of those that claim free services and then ask for credit card information. An iPhone cell number lookup can be helpful when it comes to searching for phone numbers or addresses, given you know the area in which your target resides or works.
Google, Bing and other search engines are fountains of information when searching for old acquaintances or lost loved ones. Find work related posts, social media information, addresses, or phone numbers.
Millions of people use social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, and LinkedIn, making it easier than ever before to find those absent from your life. These sites make it easy to connect and save you the potential awkwardness of making a phone call or an in-person visit. Additionally, social media allows you to share information and photos that reach across the miles.
Keep in mind that when searching for someone on certain social media sites, the person you are searching may find out about the request. If you want to keep it private, choose another method first.
Message boards may seem a bit outdated when searching for someone, but they still work. Boards attached to specific interest sites, public news sites, family locator, or genealogy sites have a lot to offer.
School Yearbook Sites
There are people in certain occupations that do not use social media or have their contact information in search engines. In that case, checking out their school yearbook site may yield the answer. If not, it may be easy to connect with a mutual friend or classmate who knows how to get in touch.
Searching for your long-lost great aunt? Chances are she may not be on social media or any of the search engines. While genealogy sites could help, your best bet may be to contact your relatives and ask if they know how to contact Great Aunt Bessie. Technology is still your friend when it comes to finding her phone number or locating her house, and who knows? Maybe you’ll start sharing photos and stories online.
This option seems invasive for a standard search, but there are plenty of background check websites ready to give up personal information on almost anyone for a price. Background checks usually include a phone number, work history, known associates and relatives, and criminal history. It might be good information to have but telling the long-lost friend or family member that you ran a background check probably won’t go over too well. You may want to use it as a last resort.