Fraud Prevention Series: How to Identify Scams
March 8, 2022
Scammers and internet fraudsters continue to grow more and more clever in their attempts to trick you into giving them money or personal financial information. Plus, they now have an expanding number of ways to contact you. No longer focusing on just email, they can try to scam you through text messages, phone calls, pop-up windows, and even social media interactions. But rest assured, there are a number of ways to spot an attempted con and avoid falling into its trap. Be on the lookout for the following tell-tale signs of a scam.
Appearing as an organization you know.
Scammers will craft messages attempting to impersonate an organization you know and trust – it might be from a streaming service like Netflix, your financial institution, or a local restaurant chain. They’ll even include the correct logo and colors to appear as a legitimate message from the organization you know. A good rule of thumb is to always approach any message with a healthy dose of scrutiny.
In the scam messages, they may include an attachment meant to look like a monthly bill or invoice. Or it might read, “This a late payment notice!”, and direct you to a link to pay your bill. Don’t click on any links or open any attachments without thoroughly examining them first. You can check links by hovering your mouse over the link, it will display the URL, and you can determine if the link is legitimate. Look for misspelled words (ex. www.nertflix.com), or incorrect link construction (ex. www.live.netflix.com).
Attempting to scare you with a problem or lure you with a prize.
Sorry, you probably didn’t win an all-expenses-paid tropical cruise and don’t worry, the IRS is most likely not coming after you. A common scam in recent years is to panic or excite a potential victim into acting quickly (and rashly) to address an issue or a reward. First, any real threat of financial recourse or law enforcement action from a governmental agency or otherwise would come in a more formal method, like a mailed letter rather than a phone call or email. If you’re still concerned it’s real, contact the organization directly to clarify. Next, if you didn’t personally enter yourself into a contest or sweepstakes for a reward, don’t fall for a grand prize landing right into your lap. If it’s too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is.
Like we mentioned before, even if the message is from a company you normally interact with or trust, be cautious. You may receive a message saying you could win a free gift, or get a coupon, but make sure to check if it looks suspicious before clicking any links or opening any attachments.
Requesting you send them money in a specific way.
This is an immediate red flag. Of course, you should always be wary of messages asking you for money, but be on the lookout for any requests for unusual payment methods. This includes cashing a check for someone you don’t know, sending a wire or electronic money transfer of any kind, purchasing gift cards and providing the codes, or even receiving money requests from your social media contacts.
These examples may feel obvious, but scammers wouldn’t keep trying a trick that wasn’t working on people. Stay alert and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. When in doubt, don’t open the message or take the call, don’t give out your personal or financial information to a request you weren’t expecting, and do your research on a scam message in question. It’s likely that you’ll be able to easily find proof the offer or request is real, or run into people reporting the scam for what it is!