Kokua Line: Boost personal security online to help avoid holiday scam surge
Question: I got a strange phone call where a person claiming to be my grandchild was on the line with another person. They said my grandchild had a serious problem and needed money ASAP.
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Question: I got a strange phone call where a person claiming to be my grandchild was on the line with another person. They said my grandchild had a serious problem and needed money ASAP. They wanted me to mail cash overnight. I didn’t fall for it because I don’t have any grandchildren! I hung up before they said where to send the money. I wish I had gotten the address. Are others calling about this?
Answer: Your call is our first in months about that particular scam, but we are getting a surge of complaints about other scams. That’s typical ahead of the holidays and tax season — thieves are scheming overtime.
The call you received is a twist on the “grandchild in peril” scam, in which victims typically are told to wire money or supply a debit or gift card. No matter the specifics, the advice is the same: Hang up and check on the loved one through a trusted, verifiable source.
Other scams we’ve been hearing about include fake vacation rentals advertised online, emailed extortion attempts threatening to release (fake) webcam footage, and phone calls from people impersonating federal employees about taxes or pensions. The IRS advises consumers to take basic steps to protect their personal and financial information online to help thwart scammers. Among its tips:
>> Use security software with automatic updates for computers and mobile phones. Don’t give your cellphone number or email address to just anyone. Don’t over-share on social media.
>> Create a strong, unique password for each online account. Use long phrases containing upper and lowercase letters, numbers and other characters. As an example only: SomethingOneCanRemember@30. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Don’t use an email address as a password. Consider using a password manager.
>> Use secure websites when doing business online. Look for “https” in a web address. Don’t shop using public Wi-Fi. Don’t download software or apps from pop-up ads.
>> Remember that “phishing” emails often pose as well-known, trusted companies or agencies and give an urgent task to trick victims into opening a link or attachment. Don’t take the bait. The IRS, in particular, does not send unsolicited emails about refunds or payments, requesting log-in credentials, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information.
>> Recognize threats over the phone as a red flag. The IRS does not call demanding payment with threats of jail or a lawsuit. The IRS does not demand payment via gift or debit cards. The IRS does not accept tax payments by iTunes cards.
>> Forward IRS-related scam emails to email@example.com. Report IRS impersonation telephone calls at www.tigta.gov.
Q: Could you let people know about the craft fair? It raises money for the senior clubs we enjoy.
A: Yes. You’re referring to the 45th Annual Mayor’s Craft and Country Fair, which will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. Admission is free and open to the public, although there is a parking fee.
More than 30 senior clubs will have booths selling homemade crafts, such has pottery and holiday mementos, as well as plants, secondhand items and other goods, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s website. Money raised will help the senior clubs pay for their 2020 programs, including excursions.
There also will be booths giving out information on a range of topics of interest to senior citizens, and a People’s Open Market selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods for the Hawaii Foodbank, and may also donate used eyeglasses and hearing aids to the Ala Moana Lions Club.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.