Scammers are everywhere, and if you think you’re smart and you cannot be scammed, think again– nobody is immune, and anybody, no matter how smart, can fall victim. That’s why it’s crucial to stay vigilant.
An October 2019 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report found that millennials are 25 percent more likely than 40+-year-old people to report losing money to a fraud.
Scams come in many forms. It’s impossible to list all of them here.
They include: pyramid schemes; hospital bill fundraisers, vacation offers to exotic places, Nigerian Prince emails, petitions, phishing software, dating and romance, online shopping coupons, calls impersonating government agencies such as IRS, banking fraud, credit card offers scams, charity, and medical care appeals, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, lottery, fine-print scams, among many others.
While all scams are wrong, some are particularly cruel as they seek to exploit victims’ kindness, especially toward helping others and undermine the bond between community members.
Internet anonymity and social media platforms have provided scammers with great avenues to take advantage of unsuspecting people. For example, spam phone calls and text messages offering suspect products or making wild assertions and impersonation on social media platforms such as Facebook are now commonplace.
Some of these calls can be tricky because they come from familiar local phone numbers. But when answered, it could lead to unwelcome solicitation to donate to a cause, a congratulatory message for winning a trip to an exotic island you’ve never even imagined, or some attempt to scare you into providing them personal information that could lead to identity theft.
The scams are getting more sophisticated as technology advances. Now, it’s not uncommon to receive a scam call from overseas, making it almost impossible for victims to remedy the situation.
While we cannot protect ourselves from all scams, it’s essential to know how to avoid being scammed.
A message from Educational Employees Credit Union gave members the following guidelines to detect a scam related to banking.
“Millennials are 25 percent more likely than 40+-year-old people to report losing money to a fraud.”
Four Signs That It’s a Scam
1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.
Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business, you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.
They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.
2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.
They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.
Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.
Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.
3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.
Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. For example, if you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.
They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.
4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.
They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.
Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.
What You Can Do to Avoid a Scam
- Remember, don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card numbers.
- If you get a text or email from a company you do business with, and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Please don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID. Block unwanted calls and text messages.
- Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
- Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Such reporting is vital because the information is instantly shared with law enforcement charged with fighting fraud.
The adage when the deal sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.