Con artists cheat Americans out of billions of dollars every year. The ability to recognize scams and the red flags can help protect you, your loved ones, and your hard earned cash.
Phishing is when scammers pretend to be someone that they aren’t to gather sensitive information or access to a person’s funds. Phishing can take many forms, including emails, texts, and even fake websites. Often, this looks like an email or text message saying there’s been a problem with your account. Or, the message may be offering you a great deal from a company you know and trust.
Do not click on these links or enter your information. Open a separate browser or even use a different device to go to the company’s official website and review your account or check out the offer. Call the company directly at their official phone number to verify the message. Most importantly, do not enter any of your information into a pop up or when prompted by an email.
Scammers may try to intimidate you into paying them by pretending to be a person in power. This could mean impersonating someone from the IRS, a debt collector, or anyone who demands you pay them immediately.
The IRS will never call you and ask you to pay. If you get a call claiming someone is from the IRS, hang up, and reach out to an official IRS channel to confirm if there is really a problem. You can find ways to contact the IRS at IRS.gov. When it comes to debt collection, you don’t have to take the caller at their word. You can research the collector and send a Debt Validation Letter.
Scammers try to create a sense of fear and urgency to intimidate you. By doing so, they hope you’ll pay them or give them information before you have the chance to think it through. If you ever get a call that uses this tactic, be suspicious.
Scams Targeting Seniors
Unfortunately, scammers target the senior population most aggressively. This group needs to be extra cautious when answering the phone or browsing the internet. They must be vigilant about keeping their information and money protected. One tactic that scammers use is to claim to be a family member or loved one who is in trouble and needs money for an emergency. Seniors and anyone else who receives a call or message like this should always confirm it’s legitimacy before taking action. Read more about the red flags to watch for and common scams that target senior citizens.
Malware or Ransomware
Some scams will install malware or ransomware on your device if you click on a link. That means your device could be infected with a virus that steals your information or forces you to pay the scammer in order to regain access to your files. These links can come from popups, ads, posts on social media, emails, or messages from the accounts of friends or family that have been hacked.
You should always be wary of clicking on any link that someone sends you unprompted. Pay attention to whether the sender is using generic language or doesn’t sound like themselves. If you do click on such a link and fear your device has been infected, you should have your antivirus software run a scan immediately and take any actions it suggests.
Affinity fraud occurs when a dishonest person plays on someone’s affiliation with a group, such as a religious congregation, alumni association, support group, or social club, as a way to win their confidence. The goal is usually selling something, convincing someone to make a fake or inappropriate investment, or tricking the victim into sharing important information. The scammer may be an actual member of the group or just pretend to be one.
No matter who the person is or claims to be, you should always be weary before giving them money or information. If they claim to represent the group and you want to support them, it’s best to do so through official channels, like their website. Doing this will ensure that the money gets to the organization you want to help rather than a scammer.
When You Encounter a Scammer
If you’re contacted by a scammer, the best thing to do is simply ignore them. Don’t answer their calls, delete their emails, and navigate away from a sketchy looking site. You should never give anyone information or send them money until you are sure that they are legitimate. If you’ve been contacted by a scammer, you can also report them to the FTC to help stop them from reaching out to you or others.
If you have sent money to someone you believe is a scammer, you should act as soon as possible. Cancel your card(s), call your bank or credit union to inform them you believe your account information has been stolen, or reach out to an administrator or help line for the account. If the scammer has your sensitive information, such as your social security number, this site from the FTC can help you with what to do next.
Scammers are constantly changing their attempts to take your money or information. To learn more about recent scams that have been reported and for more tips to keep yourself safe, you can visit the FTC’s website.