5 things you may be doing to help scam callers

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Scam artists may use a combination of social media and public records to try to trick you over the phone.{ } (Photo: SBG file)

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- It was a terrifying call for Rupa Singh, a mother who lives in Pittsford.

"The person said, ‘I'm Officer so and so and I'm calling in regards to an individual who has given your number,’” said Singh. "He named our son, our older son."

Singh was told he was in police custody following a crash near his college.

"Yeah, I am his mother. What happened to him?" Singh said in the call.

"According to police reports he was recently involved in a vehicle crash,” said the person on the other end.

That person was a scam artist looking for money and armed with plenty of Singh’s personal information.

"I don't know how they got the campus information and the home phone number and the son's name. I have no idea how this could have happened,” said Singh.

Experts say these days, it's not difficult.

"There's plenty of opportunities to put some pretty important information out there,” said Randy Hoak, AARP Associate Director for Central and Western New York.

There are five things you might be doing that expose your information:

1) Posting personal updates to social media.

"It would be a tall order to ask people not to engage in social media that way. The easier thing you can do is limit who sees your posts,” said Hoak.

Melanie McGovern with the Better Business bureau agrees. She says even what seems like a mundane post may give away too much.

"You're posting my grandson Johnny won his baseball game. Now they have your grandson's name,” said McGovern. "They are getting all this information from you based on your Facebook post."

McGovern says make sure your privacy settings only allow trusted friends and family to see them.

2) Frequently entering contests or

3) Filling out surveys

McGovern says contest rules may allow your information to be shared with others. While surveys may reveal information about you that, if obtained, scammers can use to target you.

"Really read that fine print before you give them your name, your telephone number, your address because they can use it to do other things,” said McGovern.

4) Mail-in warranties

They can also open up your information to scammers. Hoak says be wary of providing more information than necessary.

"If a warranty is looking for anything more than simply your name and proof of purchase then that's something to be leery of,” said Hoak.

5) Living in the United States

It’s a risk you can't avoid. There are plenty of public records in the U.S. that scam artists can compile to target you.

"Guess what? You are on the internet. Somebody's got your name from a phone book or somebody put you on a directory listing or someone has you tagged on a photo and you don't even know it,” said McGovern.

Singh was able to reach her son and realized the call was a hoax. She still isn't sure how the scammers got her information, but she knows she doesn't want another family to suffer.

"Those 10 minutes, those 15 minutes were like hell for me,” said Singh. "I don't know why people have to stoop this low."

You can find resources to avoid scams with the AARP and BBB.

Click here for the AARP Fraud Line.

Click here for the BBB Scam Tracker.