Top Phone Scams and How to Avoid Them

 

I’m sure you’ve gotten a few of those pesky calls yourself. You know the ones. They leave a dire message, and you aren’t sure if you should call back or not. Logically you know, but they sound so convincing!  So how can you protect yourself from being scammed? By knowing what they are all about!

Typical scams include the well known IRS scam where the caller informs you that you owe the IRS a large sum of money and must pay right now or be arrested. You are instructed to pay via some type of gift card, and must stay on the line while you go fetch them. You may also be instructed emphatically not to tell the clerk what you are doing. Sounds like a legitimate deal, right? They will ask you to activate the gift cards, usually google play/iTunes, but sometimes Visa cards. Then they require the code on the card which gives them access to the money. And there you go. You just got scammed.

Even the IRS has gone scam buster with public service announcements like this one.

 

There are other types of pretty well known scam stories. Just recently I received a call from someone claiming to be with the FBI and that my Social Security card had been used in connection with a crime. This one always goes the same way. They ask if you’ve ever visited Texas. (No, I just live here…but whatever). No matter what you answer, they then go on to tell you that a car was rented in your name, some crazy amount of drugs were found in it, as well as weapons (sometimes), and blood (usually). And all this is somehow connected to your Social Security card. Makes no sense, but they will get aggressive to try to intimidate you into believing this bad fiction. The scam here is pretty sketchy. They demand payment to lift a warrant for your arrest. I mean, don’t federal officers demand payment not to apprehend you for a crime on a regular basis? No, this one just falls apart.

 

A brand new scam just popped up the last few days that is similar to the Social Security scam calls, but a lot more aggressive. In this one, a person claiming to be from Homeland Security calls you claiming several packages in your name were stopped at the USPS and you are on the hook for some really bad things regarding this packages (the “illegal content” changes from call to call, if they are even clear). The caller becomes quite aggressive about the fallout from the illegal activity and you will be urged to react very quickly or face immediate arrest. What do they urge you to do, exactly? Gift cards!! You can stop your immediate “arrest” by buying them gift cards. In one call, the scammer actually specified Target gift cards. Classy.

 

Yet another type of scam is the Tech Support/Computer support scam. These scams are normally targeted at older folks who the scammers assume have limited knowledge of computers and digital security. They will claim your virus support has run out on your computer, but for the low, low price of $299 you can get a whole 3 years of 24/7 support!  Note: McAffee and Norton, legitimate anti-virus programs, cost far less and are actually reliable.

 

Another computer scam is the “Windows Refund” scam. Now this one gets a teeny bit confusing. There are a lot of steps. First they will tell you that you overpaid some moderate amount on something they think you may remember having purchased for/on your computer a few years ago, and now they want to refund you the unused amount. To complete this process they will ask to get into your online bank account and have you authorize or verify a dollar amount. While you do that, they have used a fake window on your screen to show that it now looks like the amount of your refund is now 10 times that, is in your account now, and you owe all that money back. So you can fix this by…you guessed it…buying gift cards to repay the amount (that doesn’t exist). I know this one sounds a little confusing, but it’s actually pretty entertaining to hear.

 

Travel scams are similar to computer support scams. You’ll be given a great non-existent deal on travel, and an option to pay a suspicious amount for travel insurance. If they succeed in convincing you, you will be out a significant amount of money, and no trip!

 

 

 

I encountered a really strange on last week. Russia called me. No name. No location. Just “Russia” and a phone number. They left no message, and haven’t called back. I’m a little insulted, actually. But, and this is a new one for me, the scam happens when you call back to a line that charges YOU, BY THE MINUTE for the call, and the scammer will keep you on the line for as long as possible. It’s kind of an old scam with the 976 numbers from the 80s, with a modern twist.

These scammers even try to use Medicare to try and steal from you. A scammer will call and claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company. They will say that new Medicare, Social Security, or supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that your file must be updated. They will asks you to verify or provide personal banking information, which is then used to scam you out of a lot of money. They also may try to convince you that you need to replace you card to get the personal information they need to steal from you.

With all this, how can you keep yourself and your money safe from these predators? Here’s a few simple ways to tell:

  • The scammer will be an unknown person who calls out of the blue.
  • The scammer will likely have a distinct accent.
  • The call often comes from a number that looks local, and therefore has potential to be legitimate (spoofed numbers).
  • The scammer will threaten with arrest and use intimidation tactics to scare you into immediate action.
  • They will ask for gift cards for payment.

Just remember, the IRS will NEVER call you on the phone. They only contact through mail. The IRS and FBI will NEVER ask for payment via gift cards. Threats of arrest are false, and meant to scare you. (Though if you did leave your Texas rental car full of drugs on the side of the road, that’s all on you…) Never trust a random caller regarding anything about Medicare. Call your medicare representative! And lastly, never EVER let anyone connect to your computer remotely unless you have absolute verification that the tech support you called is your actual, real tech support. Call someone like Geek Squad if you aren’t sure.

Here are some audio samples of some of these scams. They have been reviewed for language as best as possible, but some language may have been missed. Listen at your own risk. These are all YouTube video links.

Fake IRS Scam Message

Microsoft Scam Example

Medicare Scam Call and Info

Airline Ticket/Travel Scam Example

Social Security Scam Examples

There are quite a few out there, and they change every day. Keep informed, and stay cautious, and you should be safe. Oh, and be sure to share this with friends and family. Especially your older ones. They are most likely to be targeted, and definitely need to know about these scams.

 

Home Staging Tips That Never Fail

Staging Tips To Help Your Home Shine!

When selling your home, there is a fine line between living space and commodity. As a seller, you have to resign yourself to living in a less personal space for a while in order to best showcase your home for quick sale. Here are some easy, no fail tips to get, and keep your home show-ready.

De-personalize 

Books are turned around for an elegant, neutral look. Pictures are artistic, and clutter is minimized, evoking a fresh, clean feel.

There is a reason this is the first recommendation in any article about staging. It’s a must. You want a potential buyer to feel at home in the space they are touring, and personal family photos will make that difficult. So you will want to take down that family gallery wall, remove the adorable drawings from the fridge door, clear off the bathroom countertops of all your personal toiletries, and even remove any political or religious books or items. I know that last one may feel hard to do, but all these things can send a buyer out the door and to another house. It’s only temporary, and it can help your sale go through much faster.

 

 

De-clutter

Sparkling surfaces amplify light and maximize space.

Sounds pretty basic, right? But what does that mean, exactly? Look around your kitchen. Are there appliances on the counters that could be stored away for now? Do you keep a messy basket of highly used spices by the stove? Clear it out. It doesn’t need to be an empty, barely lived in look, but you want to show a shiny expanse of counter space–especially if counter space is limited. Clean off the mantle, if you have a fireplace. Group 3 or so artistic pictures on it, or perhaps one flower arrangement. But keep it clean. Same for your end tables and sofa tables. Less is more. Move furniture around to maximize the space in the room, if needed. It may not be practical for long term use, but if it makes the room appear larger, brighter, and more appealing, you’ll be getting an offer a lot sooner. Also realize that buyers will want to look into closets, so be sure to pull out off season items and go ahead and pack them away.

 

Deep Clean

It almost doesn’t need saying, but this goes beyond mopping and scrubbing the shower down. Clean the baseboards, touching up paint if necessary .

Next, take a look at your walls. Patch any visible holes or scrapes, clean any smudges (Mr Clean Eraser sponge works great). Give any tile grout a good scrub (Barkeeper’s Friend is YOUR friend here, but use gloves!). Don’t forget ceiling fans, blinds, and windowsills…especially if you have pets. And on that subject…

 

Pets

We love our pets, but buyers may not. Take this time to treat your pet to a walk.

Conceal signs of pets, such as food bowls, beds, litter boxes, and cat trees. Some buyers can be very put off by the presence of pets, and will even stop mid tour if they happen to be allergic to your adorable kitties. It’s best to put all their cute stuff away in the car, or concealed in the garage (like that litter box) and take the pets for a ride in the car while your house is being shown. I know this is a sensitive subject, because they are our babies, but trust me. It’s just for a little while, and think of all the new places your precious pets will get to roam in your new home!

 

First impressions count. Make the entry point of your home inviting, clean, and welcoming.

Curb Appeal

Be sure to keep your front yard looking it’s absolute best! Mulch flowerbeds. Trim shrubs and trees. Keep your front porch clean and inviting. This is the first thing a potential buyer will see, and first impressions are everything! (Check out my Pinterest board on curb appeal for some simple ideas to put your best foot forward)

 

 

Freshen up 

Wax melts offer a variety of fragrances, so you can change them up quickly, and often.

Even if you’ve deep cleaned, and are all ready to go, you will want your house to smell nice. Assume that you have gone nose-blind and keep something on hand to give your house a fresh, inviting scent. You can do this with wax melts that you turn off just before leaving for the showing, or use this stovetop recipe and let that simmer til just before leaving. This ensures both a pleasant smelling showing, and provides something memorable for a buyer who has probably seen 5 houses in one day. Stand out, and smell amazing!

 

 

 

More quick tips for a good showing.

Keep a large blanket basket in your family room. It provides a quick conceal method for last minute showings. Simply gather up all that family clutter that happens in 3.2 seconds when kids are involved, toss them in the basket, and fold a pretty blanket on top. This makes it look like you have a lovely stack of pretty blankets, and not a dozen nerf guns, a box of cheez-its and an empty bottle of wine covered by a paisley throw.

It’s a good thing to note that buyers tend to focus on 3 main areas of a house. Kitchen, living room, and master bedroom. So if you focus your efforts on those rooms, making them look positively Instagram -worthy, you should be good to go. Keep the rest clean, of course, but your 3 yr old’s room doesn’t have to look like it belongs in House Beautiful to get the job done. (Just your master bedroom.)

Also open the blinds, and turn on the lights. All of them. Brighten up your space so it, and all the work you did to get it looking that way, can shine! Now go have a fun drive, or walk, and wait for those offers to come in!

619 Limmer Loop

Welcome to 619 Limmer Loop!
 
This dramatic country retreat is located in Round Rock and is an absolute gem!
Every detail is carefully selected and quality crafted.
Look at that beautiful flooring and natural light!
Entertain in large great room with cozy floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace.
Can’t miss the impressive beams highlighting tall ceilings.
The gourmet kitchen with custom cabinetry has many upgrades including a stunning range hood.
Check out this luxurious, private master suite.
The window seat has drawers for clever extra storage. And, aren’t those doors incredible?!
The master bath is it’s own oasis.
 
There are also 2 other spacious bedrooms and an extra room that could be a lovely office or library.
The details just keep getting better. Look at that ceiling!
Oh and don’t miss the incredible covered patio with its own fireplace.
For the rustic charm, there is an idyllic barn–great for family gatherings…
…and a windmill!! Who wouldn’t love their very own windmill?!
The grounds also boast a chicken coop, fruit trees, and acreage perfect for a large family garden or small family business! There is no zoning, so the sky is the limit!
This 3 bedroom, 4 bathroom gorgeous home is 3,767 sf and is nestled on 2.48 acres. There’s elegance, a touch of rustic, and an abundance of charm.
There are just so many wonderful details to this home. It’s impossible to list them all. But every beautiful detail of this showstopper is waiting to delight you!  Call me today for your private showing!

 

Ice cream, and Tacos, and coffee! Oh My!

North Austin is growing by leaps and bounds, and our immediate area is showing off some pretty fun new features. There’s lots of great new food to try and some pretty exciting developments coming up! If you don’t already live here, you may want to reconsider that very soon!

Probably the most headache-inducing thing before traveling is packing, is very important to have in you suitcases all the beauty care travel essentials.

Pflugerville has come newcomers that sound pretty inviting.

BonBons Thai Ice Rolled Ice Cream in Pflugerville. If you haven’t seen rolled ice cream, you’re in for a treat! No pun intended.

 

P-ville also got their very own Torchy’s Tacos in Stone Hill.

 

Georgetown is welcoming some new businesses, as well

Pupology Boutique For Pets and Their People is for pets and the people who love them. And it looks adorable!

600Degrees Market will open soon, and if you get antsy waiting for your 600 Degree pizza fix, this is going to make you very happy indeed!

6 Whiskey co has opened on the square! This visually stunning apparel and home décor store has been pretty well anticipated, and it is gorgeous!

There is also a rumor that Georgetown will be getting their own Torchy’s soon! Fingers crossed!

Round Rock has quite a few new, and up and coming features.

Bonchon Chicken has finally arrive to bring us mouthwatering Korean chicken dishes. Just looking at their website will make you hungry.

Sweet Charlie’s Rolled Ice Cream will be opening in Round Rock soon, for those of us who need ice cream but don’t want to drive to Pflugerville.

Liberty BBQ has been open for a while now, and downtown Round Rock is raving!

Gino’s Vino Osteria serves up fine Italian dining with a fun, exciting atmosphere.

Wayback Burgers opened a short time ago, but they have become a local favorite!

And Summer Moon Wood Fired Coffee just opened on University! I’m personally quite excited about this one.

Also, Chick-Fil-A will be bringing a new location on 79 near Dell Diamond. This will hopefully ease a little traffic on University at lunch time.

And it isn’t just fun and fine dining. There are some pretty exciting things in store for our local area.

There is soon to be a shopping experience like The Domain right in the heart of Round Rock and another in Pflugerville. Work has begun on a new Recreation Complex in Round Rock in Old Settler’s Park. And an amphitheater is set to open very soon in the Park at Brushy Creek!

That, along with the much anticipated Kalahari Resort coming soon makes this a very exciting place to be!

Don’t want to miss out on some of these exciting developments? You know what to do! I’m always here to make sure you are in the hot spots!

 

 

Small Town Perks

For some, coffee is a total spiritual experience. For others, a bracing necessity. No matter how you enjoy your cuppa, there is no better place to enjoy it than a local coffee shop with a good friend.

We may not have a NYC skyline with unlimited options, but we do have a very lovely and eclectic selection of local coffee shops that will soothe the soul and awaken the senses. Here is a small sample list to get you started.

In Round Rock we have Lamppost Coffee, a recently opened coffee spot that encourages a community atmosphere with game nights and a vibrant, urban interior. They have a great menu, and the friendly staff round out a genuinely welcoming experience.

 

 

   

 

A legend in downtown Round Rock, don’t miss the chance to spend some time lingering over your java at Star Coffee. It’s a lovely coffee shop in a breathtaking location. Getting a table inside or out, you are guaranteed a refreshing respite. People watch, work on your computer, or play one of a very interesting selection of board games. It’s absolutely a place to slow down and enjoy yourself.

 

In Georgetown, right on the square, we have Cianfrani. This is a real deal small town coffee shop with big heart. Always bustling day or night, they offer some of the tastiest coffee selections (and the incredibly strong “Cardiac Arrest” that will redefine “caffeine buzz” for you). In the cool evenings it is incredible to grab a little table outside and enjoy the view of the gorgeous courthouse and drink in a little big city at night vibe. Also they make incredible blueberry scones.

 

309 Coffee is a slightly off the beaten path charmer that is already a Georgetown favorite. It’s very farmhouse chic, with a touch of urban vibe, covered in the incredible scent of fresh brewed coffee and fresh baked muffins. Ample indoor and shaded outdoor seating creates this very cool boho feel that will keep you coming back just to feel refreshed. For the brave, ask for an extra shot in your dark roast. There’s no end to what you’ll get done that day.

 

 

And brand new to Wolf Ranch, there’s Just Love Coffee. They make a mean oat milk latte, and they are the nicest people! Plus, shopping and coffee really do mix well. And having a great option like Just Love in a great shopping area is pretty close to perfection!

We may be small town, but we drink our coffee like the big boys! And each local shop has it’s own unique feel. So really, who needs New York City when we’ve got everything we need right in one steaming cuppa.

Comfort Zone Camping

If you like the idea of camping, but hate the idea of actually being deep in the woods to do it, Krause Springs campground is perfect for you.

 

Set on 115 acres, Krause Springs has a little bit of everything. Pools, picnic areas, gardens, natural water features, and no shortage of comforting wind chimes.

 

You can go as primitive or as social as you like in this campground. You can go for the day and enjoy swimming in one of the 32 natural springs, wander through the butterfly garden, or stay and tent camp for a few days. They also have RV hookups with water and electric for those glampers out there. You know who you are…

There are also plenty of beautiful natural sites to explore. Take a walk down a shaded path and enjoy the last tastes of summer in this vibrant, lively camp. You will not feel as isolated as you would in other central Texas campgrounds, so if social camping is your thing, this is your place. It has a little more of a festival atmosphere, and that makes it a fun, special camp spot!

Krause Springs is also on the National Registry of Historic Sites, and has been in the Krause family for over 50 years. Just another one of those very special things about Central Texas and it’s incredible people and history.

Krause Springs is located at 404 Krause Springs Road, Spicewood, TX. Check website for news, times, and fees.

 

 

 

Dog Days

You’ve heard of the dog days of summer? Here in Central Texas, every day can be dog day!

Austin and surrounding areas are super dog friendly. So many restaurants have dog water dishes set out on their patios for our four legged dinner guests, and it isn’t uncommon at all to see people taking their pooches along for errands in stores etc.

But for outdoor fun, you can’t beat the dog parks and other dog friendly hot spots found all over.

Photo courtesy of Auditorium Shores

Auditorium Shores is a great place for a game of fetch or frisbee on a breezy day. (PSA: Area is not fenced and there is a major road close by, so be careful)

Balcones Park is an excellent place to take your dog for a hike. Leashed pets only.

Barton Creek Greenbelt is leashed pet friendly as well. And there is a waterfall for added fun!

Photo courtesy of AustinTexas.gov

Lady Bird Lake is a very pet and people friendly destination. Plan a day to wander the shore and watch the paddle boats.

Norwood Estates Dog park is known for it’s off leash dog area. It has a separate area for small dogs and shaded areas for the big dogs to lounge under.

Butler Metro Park gives you 10 miles of leashed pet hiking and stellar views of the skyline. (Formerly known as Town Lake Metro Park)

Photo courtesy of Austin Parks

Walnut Creek park offers off leash areas to let your dog get some exercise and play in the creek.

Zilker Park is leashed pet friendly, as well

Dog Depot in Round Rock is a 1.85 acre leash free area for dogs in the city limits. The fenced park features agility elements such as a tire jump, A-frame contact ramp, and a tunnel. There is ample open space for running and playing.

Photo courtesy of RR Dog Depot

Doghouse Drinkery in Leander is a place to let your dog play in a fenced in off leash area while you watch and enjoy a cold brew. Definitely a place to be social for you and your bestie.

Bark Park in Pflugerville is a fenced dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs, and even a community pear orchard.

Georgetown has a Bark Park as well! It offers shade, drinking areas, and agility equipment for the super feisty dogs.

 

And if you have that summer vacation planned, and Fido has to stay put, there are some excellent, state of the art kennels you can be very comfortable using. By no means is this a complete list, but here is a sample.

Action Pack Dog Center in Round Rock is a great place for your 4 legged friend to board, or even just hang out for the day. They even have a pool, so your dog may come home a little spoiled.

Photo courtesy of Action Pack

Dogtopia in Round Rock offers webcam access of your dog so you can check in while away.

Zoot Pet Hospital and Luxury Boarding serves Georgetown pups of all ages and sizes. They even offer training! (For the dogs, not the people…)

Photo courtesy of Zoot

 

So what if all this sounds great to you, but oops! You don’t have a dog! Dash on over to Williamson County Animal Shelter, or Austin Pets Alive and your new best friend is likely ready and waiting.

Sure, this all sounds exhausting for you and the pup, but everything is just a little bit better with a sleepy dog in your lap after a fun day in the sun.

Check this out!

Growing up, the library was always a sort of magical place. So quiet and cool against the hot, noisy summer canvas, it was a great way to escape and find yourself…and get lost a little as well.

         

 

Back then it was just full of books, card catalogs and, if you were lucky, a microfiche or two.

Now there is so much more! Card catalogs are computerized, you can use online computers to research instead of those cool mircofiches…and that’s just part of it.  You can rent DVDs, CDs, and reserve study space.

          

Georgetown library has a weekly read to dogs session for kids to practice reading skills, there is a large selection of classes and seminars, art and photography displays, even live music!

      

And if that isn’t cool enough, there is a cafe with food and coffee and lots of friends meeting up. Definitely not the libraries of old.

       

Oh, and there is a used bookstore inside the library. Just in case you need just one more.

 

       

This library is so much more than a place to check out books for a little literary escape. It’s a literal  destination in itself!

Georgetown Public Library is located at 402 W 8th St, Georgetown, TX 78626.

 

Taylor Made

If you are looking for a little day trip getaway that isn’t too far away, you only need to head to Taylor, Texas!

This charming downtown district has everything! Antique malls, quaint decor shops,

from Sweet & Southern Finds

the fantastic 2nd St Farm to Market Deli,

the cutest Curb Side Coffee House,

 

and a heaping helping of gorgeous architecture!

 

Take time to explore, so you won’t miss this peaceful hidden art gallery.


Linger with the family in the kid friendly Texas Beer Company,

or go get some amazing cupcakes from Curb Side Coffee House.

You would never know this is a small town with the big options for browsing. Take the whole day and enjoy a beautiful spring day exploring the hidden gem that is Taylor.

Taylor is located less than 20 miles East of Round Rock on Hwy 79.

The Greenhouse Effect

It is my humble opinion that you can never have too many delicious dining options on the square.

 

 

Last fall, Greenhouse Craft Foods opened their second location on the gorgeous Georgetown town square and it could not be more ideal!

   

 

They offer the same farm to table freshness with some unique menu items to keep things exciting.

(brisket mac n cheese, anyone?)

 

And the décor is a striking mix of rustic and industrial, making it inviting for everyone.

  

And the food is insanely delicious! They offer kid friendly options, as well. And you can dine in, or order ahead and pick up dinner for those lazy nights.

 

Whether wandering the antique stores and boutiques on the square on a Saturday, meeting the girls for brunch, or enjoying a night at the Palace Theater, this is the tastiest place to grab a bite!

Greenhouse Craft Foods Georgetown is located at 708 S. Austin Ave.

 

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