In the age of convenience, scams continue to evolve
This week marked National Consumer Protection Week, an initiative launched by the Federal Trade Commission 24 years ago to bring community organizations together to protect consumers. Partnerships are the foundation of our community’s strength and resilience, and El Paso Electric and the Better Business Bureau Paso Del Norte are working together to highlight the importance of scam awareness.
In an age where convenience is driven by technology and connection is virtually everywhere, the tools that make this possible – mobile phones, social media, email and the internet – are often the very ones that make us vulnerable and prone to scams.
Remember when scams were largely limited to the occasional nameless phone call home, with an automated message and just hanging up was enough? As scams evolved, so did our ability to avoid them: caller ID, do not call lists, and call blocking. Nevertheless, scams continue to become more sophisticated, aggressive and audacious in the way they take advantage of consumers. Scammers are now “forging” numbers to make it look like they come from a legitimate source like EPE; they try to get your personal information as well as your money; and they take every opportunity to scam consumers, whether it’s a puppy scam or new tools like cryptocurrency.
We ask that you protect yourself with these basic consumer protection tips:
- When someone you haven’t met asks you to send them money, including a wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card, don’t.
- Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages. This is how crooks install malware on your devices.
- Don’t trust the legitimacy of something by its appearance. Emails and websites are easy to fake with copied logos and graphics.
- Don’t rely on your caller ID. It can be tricked to read like a scammer wants it to read.
- Buy online only from legitimate sources with a website address that contains the “s” in “https”. Also look for the lock icon in the address bar.
- Find a business you don’t know on BBB.org.
- Treat your personally identifiable information like gold. Do not give it to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Your bank, social security and insurance numbers should be closely monitored.
- Anyone urging you to act quickly could be a scammer who doesn’t want you to have time to seriously consider the “offer”.
- Get the details in writing and read them carefully.
- Don’t share too much on social media. Scammers can collect your information from these sources and use it to trick you into thinking they know you.
- Keep your travel plans to yourself and only share them afterwards.
- Shred junk mail, old documents, bills and medical documents.
- Monitor your accounts and check for any unknown transactions, even for small amounts (scammers start with small amounts to see if you’re paying attention).
- Use strong passwords and keep anti-virus software and protection up to date at all times.
National Consumer Protection Week reminds us that by working together, we are stronger. While scam attempts are inevitable and will continue to evolve, it is important to unite across industries to protect consumers. EPE and BBB will continue to broadcast scam awareness messages throughout the year. We ask that you remain vigilant, and if you are the victim of a scam or spot one, please report it to us – you are helping both our law enforcement partners and your community.
For more information on how to spot and avoid scams and report a potential scam, visit: EPE’s www.epelectric.com/reportscams and BBB’s www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
Marybeth Stevens is president and CEO of Better Business Bureau Paso Del Norte and Cheryl Mele is vice president of customer service and corporate communications at El Paso Electric.