Since taking office in 2007, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has made fighting fraud one of his top priorities, helping ensure the integrity of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. But have you been as diligent protecting your own money, including your retirement savings?
Most of us are aware of common scams, emails from princes using poor grammar or phone calls about phony sweepstakes prizes. And we’re confident that we would never fall for these schemes. Still, con artists steal billions of dollars every year from sensible, intelligent people. And you’re most likely to encounter a con artist on the phone.
Exploiting your emotions
Con artists work best when their victims are in a heightened emotional state – excited about that prize money or terrified because they owe a large debt. And that emotional state makes it hard to spot the red flags. But if a caller is trying to scare you or manipulate your emotions, that should be a red flag in itself.
Red flags and common ploys
There are other red flags to watch for. Does the caller use high-pressure sales tactics or threatening language? Do they ask for payment in advance for a product or service or require an unorthodox payment method, such as wire-transfer, pre-paid debit card or gift card? Do they insist that you act now?
One common ploy is a call warning that you’ll be locked up if you don’t pay your back taxes right now. But the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) always notifies delinquent taxpayers by mail before they call. The real IRS will not demand immediate payment, ask for your credit card or debit card numbers over the phone, or threaten to arrest you.
Likewise, your bank won’t call and ask for your account information. And a legitimate computer company isn’t going to call because they are getting messages from your computer about a technical problem. There are many variations, but a few basic principles can help you avoid scams.
Generally, NYSLRS will not call you unless we are following up on a contact from you (a phone call, email, online inquiry, form or letter). If you do get a call from us, you can use your NYSLRS ID to identify yourself. If you suspect someone is posing as a Retirement System representative, please notify us using our secure email form at www.emailNYSLRS.com.
Ways to protect yourself and spot scammers:
- Be wary. Sounds too good to be true? It is. If you didn’t enter the sweepstakes, you’re not going to win it.
- Don’t provide your Social Security number, bank account information or other sensitive personal data to anyone you don’t know.
- Sleep on it. If the caller is legit, they won’t mind you taking time to think it over.
- Hang Up. Don’t engage with suspicious callers. They may be able to extract valuable information from innocuous comments. (And never answer with the word “yes.” They can record you and use it in a scam.)
- If it’s an automated call or a number you don’t recognize, let it go to voicemail.