Roby: Staying alert against fraudulent scams
Every day, we consume information in a variety of ways from our cell phone screens to our computers. With having several types of options available, the amount of content can be overwhelming and easily inundate even the most avid consumer. The ability to understand if information is fraudulent or real is becoming ever more difficult to immediately recognize. This month is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and there are so many fraudulent scams that we all must stay alert against.
Have you ever clicked on a suggested ad on Instagram, liked a normal looking product for sale on Facebook or clicked on a link from an unsolicited email? If so, you most likely have been viewing deceitful companies at least a few times. According to a recent Better Business Bureau’s report on those who documented a scam, 91% directly engaged with the fake company and 53% of those ended up losing money. These types of companies do all they can to appear legitimate from a professional website to consumer reviews and proper looking forms to enter in your credit card information. When scrolling down your own social media page or that of a friend’s you feel safe and secure, but it is the sense of regularity that can invite normal-looking fake products and websites to appear welcoming.
I invite everyone to utilize the tools from the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to review questionable product advertisements and websites. Additionally, if you do unfortunately fall victim to an online scam, you can easily report that information here as well. Everyone should practice the same amount, if not more, awareness online for products and companies as you would if you walked into a store to buy a product.
While scams and fraudulent activity online remain the most likely avenue of interaction with consumers, bad actors continue to use unsolicited calls to cell phones as well. In fact, just this past week, I received numerous calls to my cell phone from people who identified themselves as being from the Social Security Administration. These calls claimed criminal activity was pending against me, and I must call them back immediately with my Social Security number to rectify the situation. Most of these type of calls can easily be determined to be fake on the onset, however, every situation for each person is different. Think of the person who had recently interacted with the actual Social Security Administration or had indeed just participated in some sort of court case. With online fraudulent activity receiving the most oversight and awareness, I want to remind everyone that those claiming to be actual government agencies continue to exist over the phone.
While it can be alarming to get a call like this, it is important to protect yourself and your identity. First, it is very important to know that you should never give out any personal information on these types of calls. It is best to hang up and immediately report the phone call directly to the actual government agency. In the case of the Social Security Administration there are two ways you can report the call, by phone at 1-800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov.
There have been safeguards implemented on social media platforms and unsolicited phone calls have decreased over the years, but the ability to protect your identity and defend yourself from getting scammed continues to get more difficult as corrupt individuals adapt to the consumer. At the end of the day, you ultimately are in control by what ads you click on, websites to visit, or phone calls to call-back. Asking questions and always double-checking the legitimacy of any new online interaction or entity is the best practice to follow.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.