A shocked retired woman on the phone reviewing documents

Watch Out for These Most Common Scams

Scammers have been around for a while.  Unfortunately, they’re here to stay, and they never take time off from scamming people. Scammers are constantly developing new and improved ways to entice people into giving them their money and personal information. Scammers will try almost anything to steal from you, from impersonating a new love interest, a government agency, or using a family crisis. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2020, they received over 2 million reports of fraud, and victims lost $3.3 billion. Scamming people out of their money and stealing their personal information profits the scammers and sadly can cause incredible financial losses for their victims.

The best way to protect yourself from becoming a scam victim is awareness. The more you know about how a scammer will try to steal from you, the better prepared you are to protect yourself. Here are a few of the most common scams out there today and ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams have become increasingly popular in the last few years. With people using technology more than ever, scammers have devised many scams to steal from you through technology. Their goal is to trick you into paying for unnecessary technical services you don’t need. For example, a scammer may call you claiming to be a computer technician from a reputable company such as Microsoft. They may claim that your computer has been infected with malware, and it needs to be updated immediately. Then, they’ll try to convince you to purchase new software, repairs, and other products and services you don’t need. Here are a few ways you can prevent this scam.

Tips for preventing tech support scams.

  • Update your computer security software regularly.
  • Only contact a major retailer, supplier, or a local store you trust.
  • Never give anyone remote access to your device. Guard access to your computer at all times. 
  • Don’t click links on pop-ups, unsolicited emails, or error messages because they may contain a virus or malware.

Fake Government Agencies Scams

If you receive a message from any local or federal government agency such as the IRS, Social Security, or law enforcement, investigate it before responding to the message. Scammers impersonate these agencies to request money or your personal information. For example, they may send a letter, email, text, or phone call demanding that you make a payment for taxes owed to avoid legal action or prevent arrest. They may also demand that you enter your personal information on a link that contains malware, or they may “spoof” official government numbers such as local Social Security offices, Social Security Fraud Hotline, or local police numbers to make them appear legitimate.

Tips for preventing fake government scams.

  • The number one rule to remember about government agencies is they will never demand or request that you make payments online, through a text message, or a phone call.
  • Always guard your personal and banking account information. Don’t share this information with anyone who calls you claiming to be with a government agency. Quickly hang up the phone and contact the agency directly using the official telephone number to report the incident.
  • Avoid clicking on unsolicited emails or text messages that appear to be from a government agency. Don’t respond and delete the message.
  • Never send money, gift cards, checks, or wire money to any business or person without verifying that it’s legitimate. Government or law enforcement agencies will never request gift cards for payment.

Senior Abuse Scams

Scammers don’t discriminate against anyone. They will seek any opportunity to take advantage of any person, especially seniors. Scammers are likely to target seniors because they can be more trusting and vulnerable. Scammers use fear tactics and pressure to convince seniors to send money or give out their personal information. Scammers have also made up fake stories claiming a loved one is in serious trouble and needs help immediately. For example, they may claim their loved one urgently needs bail money or funds wired to them to get back into the country. Without investigating the situation further, the senior may be tempted to respond immediately to the scammer’s request. Scammers may also target seniors with many other scams, which can include but are not limited to romance scams, government agency scams, or sweepstakes/lottery scams.

Tips for preventing senior abuse scams.

  • If you receive a message or phone call that a loved one needs help, call that loved one or another family member to confirm the validity of the request. If you cannot get a hold of a family member, contact your local police or the embassy in the country that your loved one is supposedly in.
  • Be cautious of messages that have a sense of urgency or request that you respond immediately. Don’t give in to the pressure to act quickly.
  • Be careful what you download on your computer or mobile phone.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do a quick search online to see if people have mentioned this business or person is running a scam.

Online Dating Scams

Online dating has become an increasingly popular way to develop friendships and find love. Scammers are fully aware of this. They create fake online dating profiles to entice victims and build trust so they can steal their money. As the online relationship develops, the scammer may claim they need money for an emergency, bills, or traveling out of the country on business. If you’re not careful and aware of their schemes, online dating could leave you with a broken heart and empty pockets. Here are a few tips to prevent you from falling victim to online dating scams.

Tips for preventing online dating scams.

  • Are things moving too fast? Be cautious if someone is professing their love for you after a short period of time after communicating with you.
  • Don’t ignore your instincts. If something feels off or not quite right, most likely it’s not right.
  • If you don’t want to lose your money never wire it, send it online, or put it on a gift card. You most likely will never get it back.
  • Never share your account information, pin numbers, or passwords with someone you just met or you don’t know.
  • Do your research on the person you’re communicating with. You should cross-check their name, email address, photo, and location online to determine if they are legitimate.

Fake Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams

For most people, winning the lottery would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, scammers are aware of this, and they will use it to their advantage to profit from you. Scammers lure their victims in by claiming they won the lottery or a sweepstake prize. They may send a fake check and award letter in the mail or a very convincing text message. Suspicious email prizes with a link and instructions on how to redeem your prize winnings typically are a scam. In most scams, the victim must pay taxes and fees before redeeming their winnings. Once the funds have been wired, the victim never hears from the scammer again.

Tips for preventing fake lottery/sweepstakes scams.

  • Verify the sender and the legitimacy of the lottery or sweepstakes before you do anything.
  • If you are required to send money upfront before receiving the winnings, it’s a scam. Don’t send money in order to receive money.
  • Have you entered a contest recently? If you know you haven’t, don’t respond to claims that you’ve won a prize.
  • Be aware of fake state lottery websites. Scammers will sometimes set up fake sites to look official and lure people in. Always search your state’s official lottery website for lottery information.

Steps to take if you become a victim:

Unfortunately, scammers will always be around, constantly finding new ways to steal from you. Your best weapon of defense is education. The more you know about the scams and what to look out for, the better your chances are of not becoming a victim of a scammer.

To learn more about protecting your identity, check out our Security Center.
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