Current Money Scams You Need to Know About
A wave of panic washes over you. Simultaneously weak and nauseous and angry.
You’re staring at your phone, and you can see it plain as day.
There’s no money in your account.
The only problem?
You didn’t spend it.
Here’s why you need to be aware of scams
Imagine $5.8 billion disappearing. Well, for 2.8 million Americans (the most ever), it did.* Fraud, identity theft, scams – they used to be something you thought about peripherally. But it’s not something that just happens to other people anymore. It’s no longer a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.
Fraud skyrocketed in 2021
The best fraud prevention is proactive, common-sense behavior. Scammers rely on our emotional reactions. In fact, a 2018 study published in Psychology and Aging found a direct correlation between emotional arousal and susceptibility to fraud – and that emotional arousal could be positive or negative.
In other words, when we’re afraid of something or excited about something, we tend to ignore logic: who cares if I never entered a lottery, I just won $150,000 and I really need the money!
So protect yourself. Discover how scammers get your information and two of the most common scams they like to run.
People make less-rational decisions when they’re emotionally charged
How do scammers get my information?
Scammers are always looking for ways to obtain personal or financial information. Because once they have it they have access to your money. Here are some common methods used by the fraudsters:
Spoofing – the scammers utilize an app to disguise a phone call to look as though it is coming from a known, trusted source. Victims claim to have received a phone call from what appeared to be a legitimate company regarding activity on their account. They are asked to “verify” or reveal personal or financial information.
Phishing – scammers send an email which appears to be from a known, reputable source; they seek passwords, card numbers and other sensitive information.
Vishing – a verbal form of phishing; using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), calls are made through a computer rather than a phone line and appear to come from a trusted source.
Smishing – a text-message form of phishing. Scammers will send a text message (SMS) that appears to be legitimate. Members are directed to click on the link in the text, which leads them to a phishing website that looks like the legitimate source.
How to protect your information from scammers
Scammers can do a good job of making things look legitimate. Keep this in mind if you get an email, text, letter, or call that requires you to do something. Hop onto Google and check for any information confirming its validity. If the IRS texts you requesting additional information, a quick search reveals this to be a scam. (Note: the IRS will never contact you via text or social media and ask for information. In fact, their first point of contact is almost always via mail.)
Don’t click on links from anyone unless you are sure of the sender.
Treat your personal information and login credentials like the most valuable things you own. Don’t share them with anyone – no matter how convincing or scary they sound.
If it’s a call, simply hang up. A text or email, delete it. Even if it’s someone who claims to be from your own bank, it’s ok to verify if it’s legitimate before proceeding.
If someone tells you they are sending a “security” or a “verification” code to your phone and then ask you to read that code back to them, do not give them that information.
Do this every day to avoid fraud
Charles Broe - AVP of Asset Protection - shares the most important daily action to take if you want to side-step fraud and prevent identity theft in this 7-minute video.
Today’s Common Scams
The first line of defense? Knowing what a scam looks like.
It will almost always play on your emotions. When we’re excited or afraid, we’re in a compromised emotional state. Scammers know that, and their tactics are designed to get you to make decisions when you’re not thinking straight.
Here are some common scam types that you should be aware of:
The Computer Takeover
You may see a frightening pop-up on your computer that reads “WARNING! Spyware found!” or “DANGER: Virus Detected!” Some even suggest that incriminating files have been found on your computer. These messages put you in a state of panic – lowering your rational response. And that leads to hasty – and compromising – decisions.
Here’s how a criminal would use this type of scam:
After the pop up, the scammers will ask you to allow them remote access to your computer, to run a “diagnostic” scan. They will walk you through the steps of how to allow them access.
Fraudsters who purport to “clean up your computer” may then tell you that you are entitled to a refund and will ask to access your online banking.
Scammers can transfer funds from one of your accounts to another; they will then tell you that they have made a “deposit” into your account and ask you to return the funds. In fact, they have not deposited any of their own funds at all; they have simply transferred funds from another of your accounts.
Your protection from a computer takeover
Legitimate companies or individuals will never resort to a popup on your computer. No matter how real it looks or feels, there’s a scammer at the other end. Never allow anyone access to your online banking or your computer. If you experience a computer takeover, simply close the popup. Restart your computer – this break gives you a moment to get over the initial panic and see the situation for the scam it is.
Here’s how to protect your debit card from fraud
Get the details you need on how scammers access your debit card information in this article
The Gift Card Scam
The computer takeover scam relies on fear. But the gift card scam capitalizes on both fear and excitement. In this scam, the criminals attempt to convince you to purchase gift cards and send them the numbers from the card. The scammers then remove the balance from the cards, and the victim is left with nothing. The losses can range anywhere from under $100, to upwards of thousands of dollars!
But how do scammers convince people to buy the gift cards?
Telling you you’ve won a prize, or have unclaimed funds with a government agency, but must purchase gift cards and send the numbers to satisfy the “fees”.
Claiming to be from the IRS or other government entity and threatening you with arrest for unpaid taxes or loans, which must be satisfied “immediately” with gift cards.
Claiming to be your grandchild who has been arrested or been in an accident, and money is needed immediately for bail or medical expenses.
Pretending to be an “old friend” on a social media site, claiming to be in dire need of money or asking for money for a fundraiser, in the form of gift cards.
Your protection from the gift card scam
In any instance where someone asks you to purchase gift cards and send the card information as “payment,” hang up immediately. People do not win lotteries that ask them to send money for fees or taxes, and the IRS or other government entities will never contact you over the phone and threaten you with arrest or ask you to purchase or send gift cards. If someone calls claiming to be your relative, simply hang up and call that relative or their family to verify whether the caller was legitimate…or a fraudster.
What do I do if I’ve been the victim of a scam?
Keep in mind that it’s easy to recognize these as scams when you read about them. In the moment, though, your emotions will be firing, and you may not be thinking clearly. The fraudsters are counting on that. Keep informed of common scams so you recognize and avoid them.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of fraud, notify your financial institution right away. They will assist you with filing a claim. Some financial institutions and credit card companies may require you to file a police report. Also, change your online banking password immediately. And if you use that password for anything else (email, memberships) change it for those as well.
Why are scammers not charged?
It may seem like scammers and fraudsters get away with their crimes. Unfortunately, there are often jurisdictional issues that prevent capture. For example, the person calling claiming to be from the IRS may be overseas. This makes it very difficult to investigate these types of crimes. And while technology is wonderful, it also enables scammers to wire your money almost instantaneously, to anywhere in the world.