In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever for scammers to access personal information and trick unsuspecting consumers.
These scams often tug on our heartstrings, appeal to our sense of responsibility, or bank on our desire to do the right thing. They can be hard to spot. Still, with a little bit of warning, you can be on guard, avoiding pitfalls and keeping your money where it belongs: in your wallet.
- Imposter Scams - This kind of scam occurs when a scammer pretends to be someone you know, like a relative or your boss, or someone associated with an institution you trust, like a bank. They might call or email you, telling you there’s an urgent need for you to send money to a person in need to fulfill some obligation. These scammers do their research, compiling personal details that they find on the internet to make convincing stories.
- COVID-19 Scams - One new kind of scam that has popped up plays on people’s concerns about COVID-19. Scammers will pretend to be a health organization, a nonprofit seeking donations, or a purveyor of personal protective equipment. These scams are effective because they offer information or help during a confusing and stressful time and appeal to our generosity during a time of hardship for many people.
- Phishing - Scammers pose as someone you know and send messages claiming you need to update your account or payment information. Before you know it, you’ve accidentally sent sensitive account information to a nefarious actor. These messages typically come with a link that will ask you to enter information or reset passwords. They make it convenient and usually try to make the request seem urgent.
Avoiding These Scams
- Observe. The first line of defense is the power of observation. If you get an email from someone claiming to be a person you know asking you for money, look at the language in the email. Does it sound like the communications you usually get from this person or institution? Are there lots of mistakes or errors in the text? Next, check the email address. Does it look familiar? On the phone, ask yourself if the person’s voice sounds right, and think about what you know about that person and their habits or whereabouts.
- Verify. Next, try to verify what you’re seeing or hearing. For example, if you get a text or email from someone claiming to be your boss, reach out to them using another form of communication to verify claims. Or, if an email claims to be from your bank and wants you to provide sensitive information, call your bank and ask them about it.
- Be skeptical. A healthy dose of skepticism is also helpful when trying to avoid scams. Most of us want to see the good in people and assume everyone’s acting in good faith. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Don’t click a link in an email if it seems off, and definitely don’t enter any personal information if someone you don’t know asks you to do so.
It’s frustrating and sad that some people want to take advantage of others, but knowing this and taking precautions to protect yourself can save you a lot of money and hassle.
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