Scammers can be somewhat predictable. They love the tried-and-true methods of stealing money, but as more and more people become aware of their fraudulent practices, scammers evolve. They find new ways and new means of stealing your personal and financial information. Be on the lookout for these latest scams and how to avoid them.
Sweetheart & Romance Scams
If scammers can get you to stop thinking clearly and instead react emotionally, they know they have a better chance of stealing your money. What better way to appeal to your emotions than by fanning the flames of a fake online romance? Sweetheart and romance scams are on the rise. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers stole nearly $550 million as a result of romance scams in 2021 alone. That’s up 80% from 2020 and six-times higher than in 2017.
Scammers steal online identities or create fake social media/dating profiles and begin to build trust and form relationships with real people. Inevitably, scammers will ask for money, a gift card, or actual gifts. They may even send you money and ask you to forward it to someone else. Of course, the money they send is fraudulent, and by the time you realize it, you’re out those funds.
Gift Card Buying Scams
Scammers love gift cards for one simple reason — they don’t offer the same protections as credit cards. Once you send a scammer a gift card, you won’t be getting your money back. Anytime anyone asks you to send them a gift card, it should raise an immediate red flag, especially if the request is made via email or text message.
Watch out for scam email messages that seem to come from a trusted friend, family member, or work colleague. These messages often contain requests for — you guessed it — gift card codes, with a promise to pay you back. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the email address isn’t even close to the same address as your acquaintance. A scammer has merely copied a name that you know to lull you into a false sense of comfort. Ignore these emails and send them to your spam folder.
Text Message Scam
Have you noticed that you tend to pay attention to text messages? Much more so than emails or actual calls? Scammers have noticed too. In fact, over half of consumers respond to text messages within two minutes and most check their text messages more than any other app. It’s an effective way to get your attention, and an effective way to steal your money and personal information.
Scammers send text messages to trick you into disclosing personal information in order to access your accounts. These messages may appear to come from your financial institution or a legitimate company. They often contain links, promising a prize or some other reward, just for clicking. They may also ask you to verify a purchase or confirm an authentication code. If you divulge the right information, scammers can access and empty your accounts.
With the emergence of new industries and technologies, scammers find new ways to steal your money. They try to stay on the forefront of change when a subject is fresh and exciting in the minds of consumers and generally unknown to the general public. In recent years, scammers have used cryptocurrency as a way to entice would-be investors and lure in unsuspecting victims.
These scams often come in the form of can’t-miss opportunities to get in on the next cryptocurrency investment. They may even appear to come from a legitimate cryptocurrency company, inviting you to take advantage of a giveaway. Similar to sending gift cards, however, it can be difficult to get your money or cryptocurrency back once you’ve sent it to a scammer.
Online Purchase Scams
With so much happening online these days, it’s no wonder the Better Business Bureau named online purchase scams the riskiest type of scam in 2022. It should come as no surprise that scammers use social media and popular marketplace websites to sell goods. Unlike legitimate sellers on these sites, however, scammers will steal your money and never send you the promised purchase. In addition to reading reviews, watch for prices that seem too good to be true, and be wary of buying from suspicious sites.
Scammers don’t care if you’re down on your luck. They’ll steal your money any chance they get, even when you’re out of work. In fact, one of the latest scams involves preying on your persistence to find a job. These scams may come in the form of offering you a job, only to steal your personal information when you fill out work forms. Others may promise income if you purchase a special training course or online program. Scammers may even “hire” you to reroute money illegally, unbeknownst to you.
Credit Score Scam
Millions of consumers go online every year, looking for a free credit report or help monitoring their credit score. Scammers know this and have set up fraudulent ways to target consumers trying to access information about their credit. You can avoid becoming a victim of a credit score scam by accessing your credit score and credit report through trusted organizations, including your financial institution or the three main credit bureaus—TransUnion®, Experian® and Equifax®.
Scams Targeting Older People
Scams targeting seniors are on the rise. According to the National Council on Aging, older adults lost a combined $1.7 billion in financial scams in 2021. What’s worse, many of these victims have no way to earn back their money or the means to replace it. Here are some of the latest scams commonly aimed at older adults.
- SIM Swap Scam: Every cellphone has a unique SIM card that’s associated with your mobile account. In a SIM swap scam, a scammer can contact your mobile phone provider, claim they have a new SIM card for your account, and reassign your mobile number to their phone. With this information, a scammer can gain access to your bank account by changing passwords associated with your phone number.
- Email Scams: Scammers, often impersonating government or law enforcement officials, email older adults in an attempt to settle some pretend debt or liability. They may threaten legal action or to take away your driver’s license if you don’t send money fast or disclose personal and/or financial information to fix the pretend problem.
- Phone Scams: Scammers love to target trusting, older adults who answer the phone. They may do this through robocalls, requesting immediate payment or “can you hear me” calls. The latter scam involves stealing voice signatures by getting an older adult to respond “yes” to the question, “Can you hear me?”
How to Avoid a Scam
Scammers are everywhere, but you can take measures to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to scams and cybercrimes.
- Be Skeptical When Someone Contacts You: As a general rule, you should never give away your personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you. Trusted, reputable organizations don’t reach out to you to request or discuss those kinds of details.
- Enable Multi-Factor Authentication: Having more than one line of defense for your financial accounts is a great way to keep scammers at bay. Enabling multifactor authentication can give you an extra layer of protection — a password and text message verification — with minimal inconvenience.
- Research Companies: If you receive a request from a company, don’t take immediate action. Do some homework and research the company in question. That includes looking at the legitimacy of URLs and email addresses. Don’t forget to read online reviews before you choose to do business with a company or take advantage of an offer. Don’t be afraid to give them a call from the phone number listed directly on their website to confirm that they’re legitimate.
- Be Careful With Your Phone: Your phone has the potential to grant access to nearly every detail of your personal and financial life. Keep it close to you, protect it with a password, and be careful about how you respond to phone, email, or text messages. You should also be careful about who you grant access to your phone, including repair companies.
- Don’t Refund or Forward Overpayments: Scammers love to take advantage of others’ goodwill. If you’ve received a payment for goods or services, verify that the payment is legitimate before approving a refund or repaying an overpayment. Many times, these payments will be fraudulent and you’ll lose the cash that you sent back.
- Look for Suspicious Payment Requirements: Take a pause to thoroughly think about the situation anytime someone asks for a non-traditional payment method, including cryptocurrency, gift cards, wire transfers, or money orders. These methods of payment are more difficult to refund, and your money might be gone for good.
Continue Monitoring Your Identity
In addition to the ways to avoid scams, be vigilant about monitoring your identity. Check your credit score and credit report often, and make note of any unexpected changes. If your score dips dramatically from one month to the next and you don’t know why, check to make sure you don’t have any fraudulent entries on your credit report. If you do, report them immediately. The sooner you can identify fraudulent activity, the sooner you can identify the issue and potentially stop a scam.
Scammers are always evolving, but so can you. Be diligent and update the way you research companies and interact with suspicious phone calls, messages and social media accounts. Be aware of the latest scams and best practices for avoiding them, and you can stay a step ahead and avoid falling victim to scams.