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Tech Matters: Scammed? Don’t hesitate to report It

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jul 10, 2024

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Online scams are becoming more sophisticated, making reporting scams more important than ever to protect yourself and others.

Online scams are getting increasingly sophisticated. Forget Nigerian princes poised to send you millions of dollars - today's scammers are reaching new levels of sophistication. Combating them is more challenging, making reporting scams more important than ever before. The protocols for reporting are different for work and personal scenarios, but their objectives are the same: protecting you and others.

My daughter, a professor at the University of Utah, shared several alerts she had received from the school's IT department. Among them were phishing emails that linked to a fake employee login page.

"They send us screenshots of the emails and links, and I can't believe how real these pages look," she said. "If I wasn't warned, I might have logged in and given these scammers my credentials." These alerts hit her inbox within seconds of a malicious email.

On the flip side, I recently lost access to Adobe Creative Cloud, a suite of products I use every day. When I tried to log in, a message popped up that said, "Your account has been deactivated." After contacting our IT department, which reinstated my account, I found out I had ignored an email to continue the Adobe service. Why? Because I thought it was a scam. While it's good to be vigilant, it's better to check with your IT team if you get any suspicious email.

No matter what you are doing on your computer, if you work on the device, you must report anything suspicious to IT. The risk of malware spreading from your device to others at work is simply too high to ignore the episode, even if you know the company response will be negative. And a word to IT staff: if you want your employees to report suspicious email or other online activity, you must respond without recrimination, reiterate security best practice and take this opportunity to look at the company's system to see how this could be prevented in the future.

But what about those who do not have an IT department to support them? You will have to be your own IT team, meaning you will have to be extra cautious online. You may want to limit your email to communication just between yourself and people you know and important accounts. Use a separate email address for shopping and the like. Never click links in an email that are unfamiliar. Likewise, avoid links on social media. Email and browser services are getting better at protecting customers, but you still have to do your part.

There is always a chance that you may be scammed, especially with the rising skill level of some cybercriminals. And while scamming affects all age groups, older adults are less likely to report it. The FTC released a report in 2022 that showed consumers under the age of 60 are significantly more likely -- 86% -- to report losing money to online shopping scams than older adults.

The report also showed that adults under 60 are more than four times more likely than older adults to report losing money to an investment scam, and the majority of those losses happened in scams involving some form of cryptocurrency investments. To put a number to the losses, an FBI report found that Americans over age 60 lost more than $3.4 billion to scams in 2023, an 11% increase from the previous year - and that's just what was reported.

Just like you would at work, you should report being scammed to the relevant authorities to increase the chances of action being taken and to help protect others. Gather as much documentation as possible, including your personal information, any known details about the scammer and evidence such as emails, screenshots and transaction records that could help the authorities.

Report the scam to local law enforcement, who can provide you with an official report number and may investigate if the scammer is local. File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP or use their Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud.

If your case includes identity theft, file an Identity Theft Report at IdentityTheft.gov where you can use the tool to make a recovery plan. Report the scam to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker to help warn others in your area.

Stop all contact with the scammer, secure your finances by notifying your bank and credit bureaus, check your computer for malware and change your passwords. Not all scams can be fully investigated, but reporting helps authorities track patterns and potentially take action against repeat offenders.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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