Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

(Thursday, May 10, 2018) – Provided by the Dubuque Police Department.

• Question everything. The old saying “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” remains accurate.

• Research. Never make a hasty decision when it comes to providing personal information, account information and/or sending/giving money. Take a few minutes to verify the legitimacy by making some calls or searching the internet.

• Tax agencies like The IRS and Iowa Department of Revenue will not call you without warning and ask you to pay a fine or an unpaid tax bill over the phone. There is a formal process that begins with them mailing you a letter or tax bill.

• Don’t let a scam caller scare you into turning over bank account information or wiring money with the threat of a lawsuit or criminal charges. When in doubt, check with your local law enforcement agency in person or by calling a legitimate phone number for them.

• Gift cards or pre-paid credit cards are not a valid form of payment for anything.

• Be especially skeptical of unsolicited contacts – regardless of the method (phone, email, text, mail, in-person, etc.). If you didn’t initiate the contact/interaction, be very cautious.

• Door-to-door sales/solicitation requires a permit in Dubuque. If someone comes to your door and can’t provide a valid permit and credentials, tell them to leave – or stand by as you call police. Resist the temptation to buy anything being sold door-to-door.

• Never let anyone inside your home unless you have verified they are safe and legitimate. Again, this can usually be accomplished with a quick phone call to a verified number.

• When possible, use local, reputable service providers with legitimate, confirmable references.

• If a loved one calls requesting money for any reason, make some calls of your own to make sure it’s legitimate – they can wait the few minutes it takes you to verify.

• Do not trust your caller I.D. – it can be “spoofed” to appear as though the call is coming from a legitimate source when in fact it’s not.

• Do not open links in emails – even though it appears to have come from a trusted sender. Email accounts get hacked frequently and email addresses can be altered slightly to appear legitimate when they’re not. Change your passwords often and keep computer security updated.

• If you do not recognize an incoming number, don’t answer the phone. If it’s that important, they’ll leave a message and allow you time to verify the legitimacy of the call/inquiry.

• Use a credit card for purchases, especially major ones and those conducted online.

• If you’re selling something, be wary of over-payment checks – it’s always a scam.

• Never buy anything sight unseen.

• Carefully monitor/review financial statements and check your credit report at least annually.

• Do not wire money and ignore requests to do so.

• Never pay money, to get money.

• Keep your information private, including your phone number(s) – only give it to those you trust.

• Do not post sensitive information online (vacation plans, pictures of valuables, etc.).

• Consider signing up for Dubuque’s “Notify Me” service – all important media releases and timely information is sent using this service (as it is through Nextdoor.com too).

• Important online resources/websites:
– Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov)
– Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov)
– Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org)
– Federal Bureau of Investigation (www.fbi.gov)
– Iowa Attorney General (www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov)

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