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.
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.
You might think that phone scams aren’t something you need to worry about. Yes, you may have received weird calls in the past, but you’d never fall for any of them. There’s the IRS scam and free giveaway scams, but it’s pretty evident to you that these are scams. What if you got a different type of call though, one where someone claimed to have kidnapped your loved one. What would you do? The kidnapping phone scam is the latest (and scariest) phone scam happening in the United States.
What Is The Kidnapping Phone Scam?
The kidnapping phone scam targets families. In this scam you will get a call from someone claiming to have your loved one, usually a son or daughter. You may hear screaming in the background and the caller may know personal information like family members’ names and the area that you live in, all this makes their call more believable.
The caller will demand you wire them money immediately, or your family member will be injured or even worse killed. This is all designed to make you panic.
The caller will often get the information on you and your family from social media.
Protecting Yourself From This Scam
The best way to protect yourself from this frightening scam is to keep your social media accounts private and only share information with people you know and trust online. Refrain from publishing posts that divulge a lot of information publicly.
Another thing that you can do to protect yourself is keep a cool head, although this is very difficult to do.
- Ask the caller personal questions about the person that the person they say they have would only know.
- Try to get in touch with the person they say they have. While on the phone with the caller try to text the person they say they have or get someone else to call the person that they claim is kidnapped.
- Contact the police. Though the caller will tell you not to contact authorities, be sure to contact them.
If you ever get a call like this be sure to call your local authorities immediately. You can also filter your calls that you receive by running them through a white pages iPhone app. These apps will help you see if there are any phone scams associated with a certain phone number. There are many option in the App Store and in Google Play so give a few a try!