How to spot a scam

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Several readers have asked that I provide a list of some common scams so we donít fall victim to them. The list includes:

• The Social Security Administration will not call or text to tell us that our Social Security number has been used for illegal activity.

• Anyone who calls or emails you to tell you your computer or online server has expired is a scammer.

• Anyone who calls or emails you with a message about your computer having illegal activity is a scammer.

• Apple will never call you about suspicious activity on your iCloud account.

• Microsoft will not call you to say your operating system license has expired. Itís a scam.

• Any tech support pop-up warning that tells you to call a number that comes up while you are accessing the internet is a scam.

• Companies that are going out of business do not give refunds.

• Companies donít call to inform you that your subscription will be charged if you donít call back, but scammers do.

• Any unsolicited caller warning you that your computer or devices have a problem is a scammer.

• Never click on any links in an email or text message from people you donít know.

• Donít accept Facebook friend requests from someone you donít know.

• Finally, never allow anyone remote access unless you know them personally or know them to be from a reputable company and youíve initiated contact.

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QUESTIONABLE MARKETING TACTICS: Several Coeur díAlene readers called to report that they have received a notice in the mail from Property Solutions Northwest from Spokane. The notice asks the recipient to contact the company right away and it has to do with the transfer of their property.

It seems those receiving the notices own and have lived in their homes for 20-plus years. These notices are scaring homeowners because they think someone is trying to steal their property. But in reality, these notices are aggressive marketing tactics attempting to solicit homeowners for business.

Readers have asked me how Property Solutions Northwest can know their specific information. This is because our property information is a matter of public record available for anyone to review.

If you live in Kootenai County and would like to check the ownership status on your property, go to the Kootenai County Assessors website to perform a parcel information search: https://bit.ly/30nYOva

You will have to agree to the terms, then click to begin your parcel search. This will allow you to make sure you are listed as the owner of the property.

While these mailers do seem to point to questionable marketing tactics, you need to remember the company is intent on getting the homeowner to call them back because without your interaction they cannot try to sell you something.

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AMAZON ó BUSINESS FRIENDLY? When Amazon first started out, it needed to attract good quality businesses with great products to sell and then follow that up with good customer service so it could attract consumers willing to buy. It took a few years but the marketplace responded favorably to these business practices and much to the benefit of Amazon.

So Amazon has grown into this behemoth, which has allowed it to branch out into profitable sectors including technology with its own cloud-based computing arm.

The problem now is that Amazon has gotten so big that it competes with the very businesses it used to want to attract. With all the power it now wields in the technology world, software start-ups claim that Amazon is strip-mining them of their innovations.

One company in particular, Elastic, was rapidly building its business and had about 100 employees. Then Amazon came along and allegedly copied Elasticís software tool which allows people to search and analyze data and offered it as a paid service even though Elasticís product, called Elasticsearch, was already available on Amazon. Within a year, Amazon was earning more on that service than what Elastic had built as a start-up by making the tool easy for people to use with Amazonís other offerings.

Elastic tried to combat Amazon by adding premium features for customers and then attempted to limit what companies including Amazon could do with them. But Amazon duplicated many of the same features, Elastic said, then provided them to customers for free. Elastic has filed a lawsuit against Amazon in federal court in California for violating its trademark because Amazon even called its product by the same name, Elasticsearch, which Elastic claims is misleading to consumers.

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Remember: Iím on your side.

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If youíve encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, Iím here to help. Iím a full-time copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist and a consumer advocate living in Coeur díAlene.

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