Smith: Help foil scammers

Ron Smith Maricopa
Ron Smith

“Not again!”

That was the first thing my wife heard me utter. She immediately asked me, “What’s up?”
“It’s the credit union’s fraud department again!”

We recently cleared up some fraudulent charges while on vacation. The replacement debit card was only a few weeks old, but my caller ID was blazing with the name and number of my credit union. So, when the voice on the phone said he was calling from the fraud department, I quickly bought it. My guard was down because I have grown to thoroughly trust those people with their timely interventions.

But I had just been spoofed!

Spoofing is when a caller falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. The timing was perfect and no doubt intentional. But there was something wrong with the call. He was talking too quickly. And the static on the line was probably a clue.

But a conversation loaded with information that sounded reasonable, coupled with an occasional question intended to get me to say “yes,” was starting to raise my guard senses. Finally, he got to one of those questions that my credit union has constantly reminded us that it would never ask. I knew at that moment that I was being scammed, telling the bogus caller that I was proceeding to my local branch to validate his information.

Of course, the credit union confirmed my suspicion — it was all a scam. A sophisticated scam at that, but my instincts had warned me just in time.

It reminded me we often need someone to help keep us out of trouble. Life is often chaotic and distracting. Periodic nudges are a great idea and my credit union’s warning about their normal practices had been very valuable — just like those public service notices about not crossing flooded roads or pulling off the road during a dust storm.

With this notion in mind, I suggest a couple of additional services to help us stay out of trouble. The first is to join AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. With the new chatbots and voice-cloning AI-powered scams, regular reminders on how to avoid scams are necessary. The Fraud Watch Network can equip you with reliable, up-to-date insights, alerts and fraud prevention resources to help spot and avoid scams.

Sign up for free, biweekly Watchdog Alerts delivered right to your email and phone.

I also recommend the new Maricopa Community Alert Network. The city recently launched this new version of the regional alert system to warn of emergencies, local events or incidents that may have a safety impact on us. If you were enrolled under Everbridge or Pinal County’s PENS system with a Maricopa address, you have been included in the conversion to the new MCAN system. To take full advantage of the new community-specific system, you’ll need to create an MCAN account.

You can choose how you want to be alerted and the topics that you want to be alerted about, such as local traffic, emergencies and city events.

The lesson for me has been to slow down and use a few reminder tools if necessary to keep me out of trouble. Scammers count on us to make mistakes during stressful events. The constant conditioning of my thought process by the credit union helped me avoid a scam. To help strengthen our mental faculties, “what if” games help us prepare for the unexpected in almost any area. We need to condition our memory to be more responsive when needed.

Ron Smith is a senior advocate, a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee and a member of the Maricopa Community Advocates.
He is a CAPS and CLIPP™ certified planner.


This story was first published in the August edition of InMaricopa Magazine.