Consumer Reports: How to protect yourself from scams

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Ever get the sense there's something fishy about a prince asking you for money? While some scams may be easier to detect than others, it doesn't mean you could never fall for one.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney and Consumer Reports dove into some of the latest schemes to help protect you in a growing world of threats.

Pat Slaven dropped off a check in her local collection mailbox. A few weeks later, she was shocked to see what her banking statement showed. "When I saw this check online, I went, 'That handwriting is too neat, I didn't write that,'" she said.

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Pat was the victim of a scam. Her check was stolen from her mailbox, bleached, and rewritten for twice the amount.

"Data show that everyone - irrespective of age, gender - has the potential to be scammed," said Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports Money Editor. "And like everything else, scams have moved into the digital space."

The latest scam hitting mobile phones?

Smishing. You get a fake text saying there is a problem with something like your bank account. If you respond to the text, the scammer will know the number is viable and may contact you to get more personal information.

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"Never click on a link in an email or text without first confirming that it's from someone you trust. And if you get a phone call from someone asking for information and it sounds even remotely fishy, hang up," warned Gilman.

Next up? "Shimmers." It's a thin card-sized gadget that scam-artists install at ATM's or gas pumps that have chip card readers.

"ATM's installed at a bank tend to be a lot safer than the kind you might find at a convenience store, which can be so much more easily tampered with," said Gilman.

And then there is "tech-support fraud." Your computer freezes and a pop-up tells you immediately to call a number for tech support. You're then connected to a fraudulent technician who might ask for remote access to your device.

Consumer Reports says do not click on any suspicious pop-ups, and never give remote access to your device to anyone you don't know and absolutely trust.

As for Pat Slaven, she got all her money back by filing a police report, staying persistent, and following up with her bank.

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If you think you have been a victim of a scam, Consumer Reports says to immediately report it to the police, an essential step if you want to make an insurance claim on stolen property, and report compromised credit or debit card information to the bank.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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