How to Protect Yourself from Scammers
In an ever-changing and fast paced world, we use technology every day to easily login to our accounts in order to check balances, make payments, or just review general personal information. While the use of apps and unique login accounts have streamlined this daily process for us, more and more scammers are strategically trying to get ahold of sensitive information for benefit or profit. While it may not always be obvious to recognize a scam, here’s some tips to prevent it from happening to you.
What is a Scam?
A scam is a scheme to fraudulently attempt to gain access to someone’s sensitive information such as but not limited to personal data, account logins, or financial records. Scams come in many forms but most often through electronic methods such as emails and/or phone calls and can either be targeted to individuals or even businesses. Scams are extremely deceptive and either try to create a sense of panic/urgency to throw a victim off guard to take advantage of their welfare or they claim to be, “helping” a specific individual when in fact they are doing the opposite.
What are the different types of scams?
Scams come in many different forms and mediums, whether it be through face-to-face interactions or through the use of technology such as the internet or telephone. In short, scammers used specified tactics to coerce victims to provide their information to someone who is falsely representing a business, service, or another individual. Below are a few different common types of scams to look out for. While this list doesn’t provide all the types of scams to prepare for, it provides general insight as to some of the most frequent types.
Spam emails are some of the most commonly used and can be sometimes the most elaborate. By simply clicking on a link, you can be directed to a potential scam or infect your computer with a virus which gathers your information. Email scams usually mock a business or people you may be affiliated with such as bosses, service reps, etc. so be cautious when checking your inbox. Key indicators to identifying email scams are listed below:
- Misspelled sender email address
- Claims of issue on account, yet no previous activity
- Must confirm confidential personal information
- Guided to clicking a link
- Claim you’ve won a promotion
If you did not request the email information or if the email looks odd, it’s best to just delete it. Remember to avoid clicking on links that seem suspicious.
Another common type is being solicited over the phone either by a cold call or a scammer claiming to be a support representative. More than likely, the scammer will falsely represent a business or service such as a financial institution (credit unions, banks, etc.) or even a government institution (IRS, etc.). They typically deceive victims into taking a certain action which leads to the release of personal information. Key indicators to identify phone scams are listed below:
- Asks for personal information (logins, credit card info, etc.)
- Phone number doesn’t match up
- Caller is aggressive to entice panic
Just remember, at no point will any legitimate business ask for your login or personal information.
While an in-person scam may be the least common, they still exist. Essentially, one person attempts to have another person take an action to either, “help” them or to avoid being directly noticed. An example would be a scammer asking a victim to cash a check and give them only half while the other half is compensation, yet the check bounces and leaves the victim with a negative balance. Key indicators to identify in-person scams are listed below:
- Asks for help depositing checks
- Does not have an ID
Remember that if something doesn’t seem right, disregard them and walk away.
How do you protect yourself from scams?
Most times, scams can be prevented as long as the key indicators are caught in advance before providing sensitive information. The best defense is to be knowledgeable of the types of scams out there and to recognize indicators that raise a red flag. Also, to be on the safe side, be cautious to who you provide your sensitive information to and if something doesn’t seem right, chances are that it isn’t.
If scammed, what should you do after?
If you fell subject to a scam, you must inform the legitimate business or service in which your personal information was stolen as well as the police immediately. You can also contact your local state Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau, or IC3 the FBIs Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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