Every day, technology becomes more prevalent in people’s lives. From working and traveling to shopping and socializing, it seems people are always connected. But this non-stop reliance on devices also creates a haven for fraudsters – and the pandemic only accelerated this digital dependence.
While online scams have been around for ages, new technologies bring additional means for fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Scammers have even gone to such lengths as impersonating government officials or creating fraudulent marketplaces allowing them to capture your financial information.
The best way to protect yourself from becoming a fraud or identity theft victim is to understand how these scams work. Here are four of the more common scams today and ways to protect yourself:
- Government imposter scams
Receiving a call, text, or email from a government agency, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration, can be alarming – and that’s the point. Fraudsters go to great lengths to impersonate these organizations because they know most people will take them more seriously.
Typically, the scam works by an employee from these agencies reaching out to you to verify personal information to settle a debt or pay money upfront to receive federal funds. These fraudsters even create fake employee IDs to appear legit and coerce individuals into divulging information. They often threaten a home loss, arrest, or the possibility of losing Social Security benefits if you do not comply.
Government agencies will always communicate with you through US mail first. They will never text, email, call, or contact you via social media about a new issue. The only exception to receiving a call or email is if you are already working directly with the agency on a known problem.
2. Banking email/text phishing scams
While phishing scams have been around for a long time, fraudsters are becoming more cunning thanks to technological advancements. It’s easy for scammers to replicate emails from legit financial institutions with ease. And, thanks to link shorteners, it’s harder for would-be victims to tell if the text message is authentic.
These scams usually state that your account is compromised, you need to confirm your login information, or there is suspicious activity on your account. Then there is a link or a phone number to call to verify your personal information.
Financial institutions, like government agencies, will never call, email, text, or message you via social media asking for your personal information. Do not click these links or call the phone numbers in these messages. If you’re unsure how to proceed, contact your financial institution directly to see if the message is authentic.
3. Charity scams
Unfortunately, scammers are always ready to take advantage of situations that pull on people’s heartstrings. Natural disasters or national emergencies are two examples where you can expect charity scams to pop up.
These scams cover all forms of communication and giving – from emails, texts, and phone calls to social media and crowdfunding posts. Because people are more empathetic and willing to help in times of great need, they are less likely to research the charities requesting money – many of which are fake.
Always be wary of anyone or any organization asking you to donate via cash, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or apps such as Venmo or Cash App. If a charity is pressing you to contribute immediately, it’s usually a sign of a scam. Reputable charities understand parting with your money isn’t always easy. They will gladly give you time to decide and allow you to make payments through trackable channels, such as by check, debit, or credit card.
4. Amazon scams
With the popularity of Amazon, it’s no surprise that scams surrounding the company would make the list. The latest hustle works by fraudsters calling, texting, or emailing you about a recent purchase you made. The purchase is typically a high-dollar item, such as a laptop or TV, so that it gets your attention.
The scam directs you to click a link or call a number to cancel the order – where you are required to divulge your personal information and Amazon account details.
If you receive a message claiming to be from Amazon or another company, it’s always best to avoid clicking any links. Instead, log into your account directly from their website to see if there are any issues to resolve.
How to protect yourself from scammers
While scams are constantly evolving as new technology emerges, there are steps you can take to better protect yourself against becoming a victim.
- Ensure you have virus and malware protection on all your devices – not just your computers. Most virus software now includes options to protect your smartphones and tablets
- Make it a habit to avoid clicking on suspicious emails or texts from anyone you do not know
- Always review emails from companies to make sure that they are legitimate. As a precaution, check your account directly through the company website instead of clicking on any links
- Remember, financial institutions will NEVER ask for personal information via email, text, or phone call that you did not initiate
- Before making any charitable donations, research the organization. Two popular websites where you can research reputable charities are:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance
- Charity Navigator
- When donating to a charity, it’s best to use a channel that leaves a paper trail, such as by check, debit, or credit card
- If you feel you have fallen victim to a scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov/complaint/
We’re Here to Help!
Your security remains our top priority. If you believe you were a victim of a scam or you received a questionable communication from the credit union, please stop by one of our convenient branch locations or call 1-877-TRUMARK
Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.