Scams are so rampant these days that they target people of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels across the United States. There’s not one group of people who are more susceptible to becoming a victim of a scam over others; all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time.
Scams succeed because they very convincingly look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you are least expecting it – it seems that they know exactly when to strike. Scammers are always getting smarter and adapting to new technologies, new products or services, and take advantage of major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal information.
Here are four telltale signs that you are most likely dealing with a scammer:
1. Scammers pretend to be from a known organization.
A very common tactic used by scammers is to pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a government official’s real name, or pretend to be from Social Security, the IRS, or some health care company. Or they might make up a name of a company that sounds official, complete with all the necessary details to avoid being detected as a fake. Some will pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.
These fraudsters almost always use spoofing technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So, more often than not, the name and number you see might not be the actual phone number that they use.
2. Scammers claim that there’s either a problem or a prize.
Scammers like to use scare tactics to convince us that there is a problem. They might say you’re in trouble with the government, usually a tax related issue. Or someone in your family had an emergency and that you have no time to waste. For victims who are from the older generations and are not tech-savvy, scammers often claim to have detected a virus on their computer and that they need access to your computer in order to fix it. They will say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some personal information so that they can address the issue.
Another common tactic being used by scammers is to reach out to you and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it. It may seem like a very easy scam to avoid, but the allure of winning a substantial amount of money – and a chance for a better life – is a very tempting offer that a lot of people cannot refuse.
3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
Scammers always want you to act immediately, before you have time to think and doubt their authenticity. If you’re on the phone, they will convince you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.
For government type frauds, they will threaten to arrest you, sue you, or take away your driver’s or business license. They might even threaten to deport you, if they find out you are an immigrant. For the technology challenged group, they might say your computer is about to be corrupted and you need to give them remote access to your computer in order to save the data stored within.
4. Scammers ask you to pay them in a specific way.
They will often insist that you pay them by sending money through a money transfer service or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.
Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.
While these are the most common signs of someone trying to scam you, these fraudsters will always come up with something new to steal your personal information or your money. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to learn how to protect yourself.
Accept the fact that scams exist.
Acknowledging that scams exist, and being open to the fact that anyone – including you – can be a victim, is the first step to protecting yourself from scammers. When dealing with unknown contacts from people or businesses, whether it’s over the phone, by mail or email, or on a social networking site, always be open to the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Always remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Know who you’re dealing with.
If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure if the business is legit, take time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If you receive a message or email from a friend, and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly to check if it was really them that sent it. Never rush into a decision despite how much pressure the person on the other end of the conversation is trying to give you.
Do not open suspicious text messages, or click on links and/or attachments in emails.
If a message contains spelling or grammar errors, especially if it claims to be from a legitimate company, then there is a great chance that the message is coming from a scammer. If you have your doubts, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or do an online search. Do not hesitate to delete messages that you think will compromise your safety.
Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access.
Hang up immediately. Even if they claim to be calling on behalf of a well-known company like Microsoft or Verizon. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus or a remote desktop application that can give them control over your computer and access your files.
Keep your personal details secure.
Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other documents that contain sensitive information before throwing them out. If you list down your passwords, be sure to keep them in a safe place where only you and maybe one other trusted person knows the location. Do not be too liberal in sharing your personal information on social media platforms. Scammers can use your information and pictures to target you with a scam or they can create either a fake identity and use it for fraud.
Keep your mobile devices and computers secure.
Do not share access with others, even remotely, with people you do not know. Update your security software and always back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a strong password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information. A lot of apps and devices now offer two-factor authentication for added security. While it’s an extra step you might find annoying, an added layer of security is always a good thing.
Review your privacy and security settings on social media.
If you use social networking sites, such as Facebook or Instagram and the like, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay protected. If you notice any suspicious behavior, or you might have clicked on a spam message, take steps to secure your account – like immediately changing your passwords – and be sure to report it.
Beware of any requests requiring you to send money or give out your personal information.
Never, ever, send money or give credit card details, online account information, or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: you never know where it came from, and money laundering is a serious criminal offense.
While knowledge is the ultimate defense against scammers, you can also take action whenever you think someone is trying to scam you.
With the help of people finder services like ClickSearch you can dig up a lot of information about the person who got in touch with you. Aliases, arrest records, known addresses, and even possibly his or her last known location can be made available to you. This powerful tool can even give you the same results by using just a phone number, in case the caller did not give you a name, or they might have used a different name.
What can a scammer do with my name and phone number?
By having your cell number, a scammer could trick caller ID systems and get into your financial accounts or call financial institutions that use your phone number to identify you.
Can a scammer hack my phone by calling me?
No, not directly. A hacker can call you, pretending to be someone official, and so gain access to your personal details. Armed with that information, they could begin hacking your online accounts.
Do banks refund scammed money?
Most banks should reimburse you if you’ve transferred money to someone because of a scam.
Will a scammer send you money?
Scammers will send money to you and then ask you to send some of it to someone else. It may seem like a good idea since they are giving you some of the money, however they don’t tell you the money is stolen.
Tiffany is a lead writer who has a passion for all of the latest use of technology. Tiffany has been writing and delivering the latest app reviews and news for ClickSearch. She is an unbelievable author and continues to produce must-read content.