In response to my article about a Microsoft phone scam, a reader left this comment:

“I fell for this scam in June and it cost me $1300, but they did not want a credit card number, they wanted ITune cards(these cannot be traced). To this day, they still call me and I have tried blowing the horn into the phone, threatening with legal action for harassment. None of this works. I have been told to just hang up.”

Your reply brings up a great point about a sure sign of a scam. Anytime someone asks you to pay for anything in gift cards it is a sure sign that something shady is going on.

While gift cards are an acceptable response to “What would you like for your birthday?”, they are not an acceptable answer for how would you like to be paid. (Unless maybe your nephew is mowing the lawn or your neighbor kid dog sitting.)

Scammers often asked to be paid with gift cards. In addition to tech support scams, they frequently request gift card payment for the popular grandparent scam. This scam is where they convince victims that a grandchild is either injured or under arrest. Lawyers don’t want to be paid in gift cards. And you don’t want to pay anyone without some proof of payment.

Why do otherwise intelligent people fall for these scams? It’s that fear response that takes over and overrides our common sense.

I think the number one reason that people fall for scams like this is panic. They see a notice that says there’s a problem with their operating system or a virus infection, or even that they’re in trouble with the FBI and the panic response clicks in. Adrenaline begins to rush through their body. They want to hit a button or call a number or do something, anything, to correct the problem. It’s the same response that causes that causes someone in a panic to run into a wall while look for an exit.

Part of the issue is that a lot of people don’t feel they are very tech-savvy and they’re willing to accept that. Instead of making the effort to learn about things like viruses or how operating systems work, they’re content to see technology as something they’re at the mercy of. And computers aren’t the only thing people take this attitude towards, for some people, it’s vehicles or managing their finances. They think it’s too hard, so they just give up.

If more people took a minute or two to take a deep breath and really think, a heck of a lot fewer of them would fall for scams like this. Seriously, your best defense against scams is to just take five minutes to think it makes sense.

Don’t fall for it. Take a few minutes and take a deep breath. And know the following things to be true:

  1. No one on the up and up asks to be paid with gift cards.
  2. Neither Microsoft or any other legitimate tech company is going to call you with a technical problem. You’d have to get in touch with them first.
  3. No one can see into your computer and know what types of problems it has unless you’ve specifically given them remote access.

 

As far as what to do about these scammers, there’s not really much you can. Most of them aren’t even operating in this country. They just randomly call people hoping to hit on someone who will fall for it. Once you do bite, they’ll keep calling back. Threatening legal action won’t do anything, but stringing them along or blowing a loud noise in their ear can be enjoyable from time to time.

Have you ever fallen for a scam? Why do you think you went for it? Why do you think other people fall for them? Let us know in the comments.