Common Scams and how to protect yourself

Protect yourself from common scams and frauds by learning how to recognize and avoid them.

blue sky with a yellow caution sign that says scam alert ahead

Scams have always existed, but with the recent advance in technology, it has never been easier for scammers to reach out to victims. 

Protect yourself from becoming a victim by following a few simple tips:

  1. Never give money or personal information to unverified sources online or over the phone.

If you receive a call or an online request for a verification of personal information, do not provide it. If you are being asked for a payment of some kind, do not provide it. Scammers are very savvy and can make requests for information and money seem real and legitimate. They can spoof or fake email addresses, phone numbers and letter head.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ignore the request and/or hang up.

When in doubt, hang up. Scammers are pushy. They create a sense of urgency and use scare tactics to get you to give your information. If you feel like you are being pressured to make a payment or verify information, hang-up. You can always call banks, government agencies or other institutions back on a verified phone number that you know to be correct and speak to someone in person.

Here are some common scare tactics used by scammers:

  • There has been a warrant issued for your arrest: Warrants are NEVER issued over the phone. Warrants are issued on paper and served in person by a uniformed officer. They do not call you and warn you in advance that they are on their way
  • Your Social Security Number has been or will be suspended: Social Security numbers do not get suspended. Ever.
  • Your account has been compromised and they need remote access to your computer quickly to avoid losing all your data: Companies like Microsoft and Apple do not send you unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to provide technical support or fix your computer. Any tech support communication must be initiated by you.
  • Your utilities service will be cut off suddenly if you do not make a payment now: No utility company, PG&E, Hayward Water System, etc., will ever call you out of the blue and demand payment. There is a collection process in place that includes messages on bills and several letters. 
The process for Hayward Water System customers is:
  1. Regular bills are sent out with a delinquent date of 17 days from bill date.
  2. Non-payment will result in a late-payment notice (“15 Day Notice”) sent to customers.
  3. Final notice is sent via a door hanger/shutoff notice which is delivered by City staff. They have 48 hours to make a payment to avoid shutoff.

The City of Hayward does not call and request payment from customers. If non-payment is received after the final notice, a closed account notice is sent to the Collections Bureau of America (CBA). This process is completed semi-annually. Once in collections, customers may receive a phone call from CBA requesting payment of delinquent bills.

  1. Be wary of any requests for wire transfers (Western Union transfers, requests for GreenDot or Gift Cards or pictures of these items).

Legitimate businesses and creditors will never tell you how to pay for something. They will not demand you pay a bill via a gift card. Scammers request these types of transactions because once made, the money can be immediately withdrawn by the scammer anywhere in the world and is often untraceable.

  1. Be wary of requests for pre-payment.

If a seller of an item requests a deposit for a product or service, sight unseen, there is a high likelihood you are being scammed. This also counts for payments on money transfers, and are common components of Lottery, sweepstakes and inheritance scams.

Remember:

Scammers are pushy and will try to keep you talking. Don’t fall prey to this. If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, it is perfectly acceptable to respectfully state that you are not interested and hang-up.

The IRS, the City of Hayward or any other government agency will not request for you to pay taxes or fines over the phone.  The Hayward Police Department or Alameda County Sheriff’s Department will not ask for payment of violations over the phone.

The City of Hayward will never ask you to pay for your curb to be painted. We will also never send a contractor for payment.  

If you receive a call demanding payment from a government agency, hang up and contact the agency directly to verify the information. Never send a payment to unconfirmed sources.

For more information on consumer protections, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection website. Visit the FBI Scams and Safety web page to learn more about 22 “common” scams.