I pay a number of my bills online, and I also get a lot of notifications through email telling me when the new bill has been generated. Sometimes the bill tells me how much I owe.

So you can imagine my surprise when an email came telling me that I owed Verizon more than $1,000 on one particular bill. I knew it had to be a misprint of some kind, so I went to my bookmarks, pulled up the account, and saw that the new bill hadn’t yet generated; I didn’t owe anything yet.

Because I use Mailwasher I took another look at the online bill and realized that the link went to another place other than the Verizon site. I knew I should have looked at that first before I went to look up the bill but I was glad that I hadn’t downloaded the email and then clicked on the link; no idea where that might have taken me or what might have happened.

This is one of the newer scams that’s taking place lately, and this time it’s coming out of India and not out of Nigeria. People are getting sent fake notices of outstanding bills due, both online and through regular mail, with a phone number to call about that balance that’s due. It’s pretty easy to figure out that when you get a bill from someone you don’t know telling you that you owe something to them that it’s a fake. It’s a little harder when it’s a creditor you presently have in some way and getting something like that.

Many people, especially the elderly, will just pay the bill. Sometimes these fake bills come with lower amounts that make you feel that if you just go ahead and pay it off then you’re done with it. You are, but if it’s a fake then you just threw your money away, and scammers can make a lot of money off smaller amounts if enough people just pay them.

If it’s an outrageous amount you might pause for a bit and try to make the phone call. You have to be careful there as well though because if it’s not a straight 800 number you could be calling someone that will automatically charge you some strange amount as soon as the call goes through.

Always question everything that comes your way, even your traditional bills sometimes. If you get a statement that doesn’t look quite right, be sure to question that. Don’t call the number that’s on the statement if you can help it; go online to see if that number if legitimate; if it is then call.

If you get something from a creditor you don’t know, of course just throw that away.

If it’s an email and a creditor you know, follow the same advice about looking it up online to see if the numbers match.

By the way, this same scam is being used by using a valid collection agencies name, mimicking the letterhead, and saying you owe certain amounts for creditors you may or may not know. If you know you don’t owe anyone, or are unsure, investigate it online first; never just part with your money without verification.

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