Earlier this week my mom received an email from her bank alerting her about some questionable activity. The message looked legit with the bank’s official logo, wording that sounded like it’d come from a bank, and even an email address that seemed correct. It encouraged her to click on a link and provide some secure information so it could “authenticate” her recent bank activity. It seemed off to her, so she called the bank to verify the email was sent by them. No surprise, it wasn’t. It was a just another scam.
I wish I could say these emails along with the phone calls and even texts we’ve all fielded happen infrequently. In reality, scammers are working harder than ever to fool us, steal money, obtain personal information or perform some other fraudulent activity. And they’re not just after individuals. Businesses, even self-storage, are even bigger targets because a successful scam can mean a big score.
Members of Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, regularly share their interactions with these con artists. Sometimes these ruses are clever. People will pose as facility tenants or customers seeking a storage unit to get your attention. In one thread, a self-storage manager discussed a phone message from a woman who said she was calling about a billing problem. Not only was she not the renter, but she used strange phrasing in her message, which led the manager to believe it was somehow a scam.
Another recent thread discusses a different type of fraud involving movers. The poster shared how a moving company scammed a tenant and the headache—and possible liability—it caused for his storage facility. These are just two examples of the many ways people attempt to rip-off storage properties or their customers.
If you think your self-storage won’t be targeted, you’re mistaken. Sometimes these scams are pretty obvious, like this phone call a manager received. Other times, it can be hard to tell. Of course, you should rely on your intuition—if something seems off, it likely is—but you should also know what to do in these situations.
When it comes to cyber scams, there are some easy ways to minimize risk. Foremost is to think before you click. I received an email last week that had the word “payroll” in the title. The address seemed legit, but didn’t include my company’s name, so I knew it was a scam. So, before you click on anything, make sure it’s a reliable source. This is even more critical when it comes to downloading attachments. More than once I received an email from someone I know that contained an oddly named attachment. A clue is when the attachment comes without anything in the body of the email. Avoid opening anything that might have a malware-infected attachment. For more on these types of threats and how to act, read this article.
When it comes to phone scams, use your best judgment and follow your operation’s policies and procedures. People who call for a unit “for a friend” or to “hold something for xx days” could be running some kind of fraud. Ask questions and verify everything. “That’s our policy” should be your motto.
There are also many scammers targeting businesses for money these days for a variety of so-called charitable causes. Don’t give sensitive information over the phone, especially your credit card number. Rather, ask if they have a secure website where you might make a donation. Also, don’t fall for the “you just won …” phone calls. Their goal, like other cons, is to extract personal information. So, they might ask you to simply “verify” certain info, but they don’t really have it.
Your best defense against these fraudulent acts is to be informed. Learn how to detect a possible scam, discuss strange calls or queries with others, or do an online search. Run it by members of Self-Storage Talk (free to join!). The Federal Trade Commission provides alerts on scams by topic and has a running list of recent ones making the rounds. The FBI also offers information on how to detect and keep safe from fraudulent schemes.
Be suspicious. Watch for red flags. Verify information. And never be afraid to hang up when you receive a strange phone call, text or email. Trust your gut as it’s likely right!