Phone scams continue to be a big business

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As far as crimes go, phone scams seem to operate in a parallel universe. If you get a phone call urgently requesting you to wire money or deliver gift cards to a stranger to pay off an overdue tax bill, you’re likely being targeted in a phone scam.

Whatever the situation, scammers manage to convince people to part with their money or financial information. One in six Americans lost money to phone scams in 2018 for a total of $10.5 billion, according to a Harris survey conducted for the Truecaller app. And the toll has been steadily rising in recent years. That survey also found that young men were most likely to be swayed.

Phone scams follow a general script, it’s just the details that vary: There’s an urgent situation that needs to be addressed either by you sending money or divulging personal financial information. Common ones include:

  • The IRS is calling to collect back taxes and if you don’t respond, “law enforcement action” will proceed.
  • Tech support from a computer company says there is a virus on your computer that needs to be removed.
  • You’ve won a lottery, but first you need to wire money to the caller so he or she can collect it.

When it comes to avoiding scams, take charge and do not agree to a stranger’s requests. Here are ways to protect yourself from phone scams:

  • Be wary of unsolicited phone calls. Screen your calls and let unfamiliar numbers go to voice mail.
  • If you do find yourself on a suspicious call, resist pressure to act immediately.
  • If you think a call might be legitimate, ask to call back. Then, look up the number yourself.
  • Follow the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Your security and peace of mind is important to us. If you ever feel you’ve been targeted for a scam or that your financial information may have been compromised, report it immediately. Call OCCU at 800.365.1111, visit a branch or log in to MyOCCU Online & Mobile to send a secured message.