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Burke: Scams evolving with the growth of technology

If I am to believe the deluge of calls to my cell phone this week I have some real problems that need to be addressed.

This week I have learned that my student loan is in default and if I respond to the company that called me they can fix the problem. Except I don’t have a student loan.

I also learned the IRS had issued an arrest warrant for me for past due taxes and I need to immediately call back to make payment arrangements before I go to jail. Except we are not a debtor nation and do not arrest people for not paying taxes (and I don’t owe back taxes!).

And my car warranty has expired. I can get a new one for a low fee but I need to act quickly. Except I don’t own the model of car they called me about.

And I also learned that my computer license for Windows has expired and I need to pay a fee to update the license. Except Microsoft doesn’t charge an annual fee for the operating system I am using.

These calls are all scams.

There are many other variants. These same types of scams have permeated our email accounts since the inception of the Internet. Fortunately, email spam filters are getting good at warning us of emails that look like scams. And in the advent that a spam email does get through we can tell our email service to block it.

We have no such filter on our phones so scammers are now trying to get to us by making these bogus phone calls. That is on top of the telemarketing calls you may get from legitimate companies.

So, what can we do?

Many households have quit using traditional landlines since almost everyone seems to have a cellphone. There is a national “do not call” list that you can place your cellphone on. But most telemarketing and scam calls are made by robot-dialers.

These dialers are computer based and software driven programs that randomly call millions of numbers to deliver a prerecorded message. Most of these calls originate from outside the U.S. where they can avoid the law. Legitimate telemarketing companies often get your information from companies you do business with. Any company that you have an account with has your contact information. It is a common practice for companies to sell your contact information to a third party.

To minimize these calls and to avoid falling for a scam do the following:

■ Make sure that you contact any company that you have an account with and notify them to not release your contact information to any third parties.

■ Place your cellphone on the “do not call” list.

■ When you get a call with a live person, notify them to remove you from their database and that your phone is on the do not call list.

■ If it is a robot call listen to see if they have an option to remove you from their list. Often, it’s done by pressing “9” on your phone during the call.

■ Block the call on your cellphone. Most cell phones allow you to select a phone number and block your phone from accepting the call. You can also do this online by logging into your cellphone account. You may have to search to find out how but you can Google it on the Internet to get the information.

■ And lastly, anytime anyone calls you or emails you with an offer too good to be true or they can help you with a problem you didn’t know you had, it’s always a scam.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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