Don’t Be The Next Victim: Protect Yourself From Today’s Scams
Online scams can be hard to spot and difficult to avoid. They are enticing. They are subtle. They are high-tech, and they are more and more common. Last year, 2.2 million cases of fraud were reported and the victims lost $3.3 billion to these sophisticated scams.
The scammers and fraudsters are attacking in a number of ways: Over the phone, through email and even via text messages. The best way to reduce the risk of being lured in by a scam is to understand how they operate. Know what types of scams are working their way across the country and how to spot a scam before it’s too late.
6 Popular Types Of Online And Phone Scams
How are modern scammers attacking victims? How do these elaborate scams work? This list shows the various ways criminals use deception to steal millions of dollars from victims.
- Romance Scams – Scammers will use fake online dating profiles and accounts to lure the lonely. Once they make contact with a victim, the criminal will tell a sob story and explain that they need money to get through a rough situation. The victim is asked to share their bank account logins, and the scammers set up sophisticated money exchange accounts to fool the victim into thinking any money they lend is safely returned. By the time the victim realizes money was swiped from their account, it’s too late. Sadly, romance scams are often unreported because the victims are embarrassed.
- Employment Scams – If a job sounds too good to be true, it is. A fraudulent job posting may advertise an immediate opening for a secret shopper. The scammer sends the victim a check (usually around $2,000) and asks them to quickly deposit or cash the check. The victim is instructed to immediately use the money to buy gift cards and then send the gift card codes back to the scammer. The victim is told they will get a percentage of the check as payment. However, the check never clears, and now the victim is out all of the money.
- Advance Fee Scams – Chances are, you’re not an instant winner, especially if it’s for a contest you never entered. The scammer claims you’ve won a big prize or will receive an inheritance from a long lost relative. The only catch: You must pay for taxes and fees before you can get the prize. Once the victim pays the taxes and fees, the scammer vanishes.
- Grandparent / Elderly Scams – Who wouldn’t want to hear from a grandchild? These scams target the elderly by impersonating one of their relatives. Posing as a grandchild, they tell their beloved grandparent that they’ve been arrested or are stuck in another country. Fraudsters may also pose as a representative of the grandchild. The scammer will beg for help and say the only way to save them is to send money right away. Of course, this is all a lie. But an elderly person may act quickly to help a relative, without realizing it’s a fraud.
- IRS/Social Security Scams – Getting a call from the government can be scary. Scammers posing as government officials or collection agencies call the victim and demand payment for back taxes or penalties. Sometimes they don’t want money, just your personal information. They will be aggressive and intimidating, and they can sound very official and authoritative.
- Tech Support Scams – The victim gets a call or sees a pop-up window on the computer claiming their computer has been infected with a virus. The scammer will promise to fix the problem, but asks for remote access to your computer so they can look for the problem. Once they have access to your computer, they can track down banking information or hold your computer for ransom, demanding money if you want to use your computer again.
How To Avoid Scams And Fraud
Knowing what types of scams are common is the first step to avoiding them. The second step is to treat all phone and internet communication carefully. The most effective piece of advice: Don’t trust unknown people and businesses. If an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are it’s a scam. Be wary of any free prizes, free gift cards or free money. Always remember to:
- Avoid phone scams by blocking unwanted calls. The FTC has detailed instructions on how to do this. Also filter unknown text messages. Never click a text message link from an unknown source. And know that government agencies like the IRS will never call you. They will always send paper documentation on official letterhead.
- Avoid giving out account information to suspicious individuals when on the phone. Do not feel pressured to do as the scammer says. They are not the boss. Always stay in charge of the conversation. Ask questions. Demand answers. When in doubt, hang up!
- Avoid email scams, do not open suspicious emails. Look for spelling errors and bad grammar in the subject line. Scammers are notoriously bad writers. Even if the email is from a friend, don’t click the link if the friend simply says, “You gotta see this!” Call or text the friend to see if they really sent the email. Most email services have good spam filters, but they won’t weed out all the dangerous messages. It’s best to always be aware of what you’re clicking.
If something feels wrong, talk with friends, family members and people you trust. Ask them for advice and help. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
What To Do If You Were A Victim Of A Scam
The first step is to act quickly. Get in touch with your financial institution. Explain what happened. Review all recent transactions carefully. Put a stop on credit cards and other accounts. Change pin numbers and passwords across all accounts.
If you gave out your personal information to a scammer, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the criminal and begin the process of identification recovery. Report all scams to the Federal Trade Commission: ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Reporting these crimes helps protect others from becoming victims.
Stay Safe And Secure
Today’s scams are often subtle, seemingly friendly interactions. It’s important to know what types of scams are common and how to avoid them. Talk with our friendly staff at Inspire FCU to learn more about scam and fraud protection. Stay one step ahead of scammers by knowing what to look for and how to fight back.