3 Common Online Scams & How to Avoid Them
As online and app usage increase so does the creative tactics that scammers utilize to trick unsuspecting victims into giving away personal information or money. Did you know that in 2022 alone, the Federal Trade Commission reported approximately $8.8 billion in loss from fraudulent scams? The most common access was through consumer’s email and/or phone number. Read more below about three common online scams that TruChoice FCU is hearing about from our members and how to avoid falling prey to scammers.
ONLINE DATING SCAMS
Romance scams exploit our desire for companionship and love through dating apps, social media, or via email. Someone creates a fake profile, pretends to be interested in you, and eventually asks for money. They may use social media to find their victims, use photos of someone else, or quickly suggest you chat privately off the dating app. In some instances, you may simply be establishing a “friendship” which turns into a deceitful con. They may act as your friend, send gifts, offer to pay off debt, or promise to meet you in person someday but always have an excuse or suddenly have an emergency. They're so good at making conversations feel personal that almost 70,000 people in 2022 were tricked into giving $1.3 billion to scammers with whom they were convinced they had a real connection.
To avoid romance/friendship scams:
- If someone is telling you that they want to meet but remain vague and constantly unavailable, don't believe them. Do a reverse look-up on their phone number and do your due diligence to find out if they're real.
- Don’t be too quick to chat off the dating/friend app, as many have security features to protect you from romance scammers.
- If you feel like you’re developing feelings for someone online, take your time and get to know them by talking on live video or in person. Don't send money or give out personal information.
Too often, online scammers prey on our fears which lead to emotional versus logical reactions. The scammer will call, email, or text that something bad has happened—like their grandchild is in jail and needs bail money. They may claim they just need to borrow the money and will pay it back, but never do. The most common way this scam works is through phone calls or social media private messages where the criminal pretends he's calling from some kind of authority figure like the law or the IRS, or they hijack a social media profile and seek help. Scammers will create a sense of urgency in which you must act instantly in hopes you will not take the time to verify the request is legitimate. Don’t fall into their trap!
To avoid emergency scams:
- If someone asks for bail money, don't send it right away! Instead, call the person's real family members and confirm if this is legitimate.
- Don’t reply to any calls, emails, or texts claiming to be the IRS. The IRS will never ask for money in this manner. If there is a tax issue, they will send you a letter in the mail. If you are still concerned, visit www.irs.gov.
- If you receive an email or social media request to assist someone in an urgent situation, do not reply to the message or click on any links. Contact the sender via phone or text message asking them if they sent the information as they may have been hacked.
Some companies offer deals that are too good to be true, and sometimes they are. You may see an advertisement offering a product or monthly subscription at a great price, but what you don’t see is the fine print in the terms and conditions that reveals hidden fees which you may be agreeing to. Even worst is a company that pretends to sell you a product that they actually do not have nor ever plan to ever ship. They will direct you to a third-party eCommerce store to collect payments, potentially steal your credit card information for further purchases, and your item will never arrive.
To avoid shopping scams:
- Do your homework! If you don’t take the time to read the terms and conditions, at least be aware of the company and research if others have had issues with hidden fees, especially when purchasing a subscription service.
- Avoid clicking on ads. Always read customer reviews and verify contact information in the event you have any future issues with the product.
- Always check the URL to ensure it is a secure website (i.e. has the “s” in https://) and pay with secure platforms, such as PayPal.
OVERALL ONLINE SAFETY
As new online scams and frauds emerge every day, it is important to stay informed and be vigilant in protecting your information and accounts. Here are some overarching tips to help you avoid being a victim of online scams and fraud:
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. You are best to ignore this offer.
- Verify contact information and make sure any websites are secure before purchasing anything.
- Avoid public WIFI, if possible, as it is an open door for cybercriminals to steal your information.
- Take the protection of your personal information seriously. Using multi-factor authentication may take an extra step and seem inconvenient, but the reward far outweighs the risk of your identity and accounts being stolen.
- When in doubt, do not reply or click. If you receive an email or message that you are unsure about, take the time to investigate, and never respond out of fear or urgency.