By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service


Manhattan, KS– Once upon a time, it took a face-to-face encounter for a thief to rob you.


Today? Not so much.


“Today, there are a wide variety of large businesses that have been developed to prey on people who have assets,” said Barbara Stockebrand, a family and consumer sciences agent in K-State Research and Extension’s Southwind District.


Technology has opened avenues for people with bad intentions to steal your identity or coax you into a scam simply by gathering your personal information from an email or financial transaction.


“It can happen anytime to anyone,” Stockebrand said. “A lot of it stems around technology and new approaches that scammers, especially, grab on to in order to prey on individuals.”


Stockebrand and colleague Janae McNally – an adult development and aging specialist in the Frontier Extension District – will be presenting a webinar titled, Consumers Beware: Avoiding Identity Thefts and Scams, as part of K-State’s Living Well Wednesday series.


The online session is offered 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 23. There is no charge to attend, but interested persons are required to register in advance.


McNally said common warning signs of scams or other illegal activity include emails or phone calls that request such personal information as social security number, bank account number, credit cards, or similar.


“Another big red flag for a scam is if someone contacts you without your making the initial contact, and tells you that something needs to be done immediately,” Stockebrand said. “Someone on the outside really doesn’t know what’s going on in your life or your home. For them to come along and say something is wrong or urgent…that’s one of those things you need to step back and think about, or just hang up.”


She said scammers often seek opportunities when people feel unsettled – such as during the recent pandemic, or after a natural disaster – and “prey on those vulnerabilities.”


McNally noted that the elderly are especially vulnerable. She urges family members to watch out for the older generation.


“It’s important for you to have a great relationship with the older family member, so that you trust each other,” she said. “Check in with them; be aware of what’s going on in their lives, and know what information they’re giving to others. If something does go wrong, support them.”


The two extension agents say their session is filled with many more ideas and tips to remain safe.


“One of the things I recommend to people when I do this program is to make a policy that you do not make money decisions over the telephone or through an initial email,” Stockebrand said. “Give yourself time to step back, do some research and ask friends about what you’re considering.


“This is just a reminder that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”


More information is available from local extension offices in Kansas.