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Protect Yourself: Tips to Avoiding Common Scams

Protect Yourself: Tips to Avoiding Common Scams

February 12, 2024

In today’s digital age, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant about protecting yourself from falling victim to the ever increasing scams thrust upon us through various channels, such as email, phone calls, social media and more. Being informed of the types of scams prevalent in the digital world can help you avoid financial loss, identity theft and emotional distress. In this blog post we’ll explore ways to identify some of the common scams and how you may be able to avoid them.

  1. Refund Scams

These often involve scammers posing as representatives from either government agencies or companies, promising to provide a refund for a service or product that you may or may not have purchased. They will require you to provide personal information including banking details or credit card information in order to process the refund that will never be provided.

Example: You receive an email from a company claiming that you are owed a refund for a recent purchase. To process the refund, they ask for your credit card information and personal details. After you provide that information, you never receive the promised refund and your personal information is compromised.

Always be skeptical of any unsolicited refund offers, especially if they require you to provide any personal or financial information. It is important to verify the legitimacy of the refund offer by contacting the company or government agency directly through their official channels and not from any contact information provided in the email.

  1. Fake or False Payment Scam

These occur when someone tries to convince you that you have received a legitimate payment, most commonly through an email looking like a payment confirmation. These emails look as if they are legitimately sent by the payment service and may even spoof the ‘from’ email to match an official email address.

Example: You are selling something on a marketplace. Someone responds that they would like the product but need to have a friend come pick it up. They would like to pay you now to hold the item, using one of the payment applications. You receive an email confirmation showing the money has been sent.

Or you receive an email or text from someone you do not know stating they have mistakenly sent money to your cash application account in error, begging you to send it back.

Always verify any online payments by logging in directly to that service. Do not assume a payment is legitimate based on an email alone. If you have received an unsolicited payment from an individual pleading with you to send it back, DO NOT SEND IT. The cash application company will identify this as fraud and claw it back in time. If this was an honest mistake, the individual who sent it would be able to reach out to their bank or cash application company to get it reversed.

 

  1. Phishing Emails

These deceptive emails appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks, social media or government agencies. They often contain links or attachments that are designed to steal your personal information or even install malware on your device.

Example:  You receive an email from your bank stating that there has been suspicious activity on your account to which you must click on a link to verify your identity. However, the link redirects you to a fake website designed to steal your login credentials.

Always be cautious of unsolicited emails requesting personal information or urgent action. Identify the signs of phishing, such as misspelled email addresses, suspicious links or attachments. Contact your bank directly through their official channels and never use a phone number provided in the malicious email.

 

  1. Pig Butchering (Romance) Scam

Someone reaches out to you either through social media, dating apps or even a ‘wrong number’ text message. This person spends a lot of time and effort into building a relationship with you, becoming a friend or even resulting in a romantic relationship. This is what is called the ‘pig fattening’ phase. There will eventually be a point in which this scammer will introduce a fake crypto site. When you deposit funds into the fake crypto site, the ‘butchering’ phase, the fake site will show enormous gains in a short period of time. You may even be able to withdraw a small portion, under the guise of gaining your trust.

Or the scammer who has befriended you tells you they are inheriting a large sum of money in the near future, however, they have a family emergency in which they need money immediately. They promise to pay you back, with interest once they receive this so-called inheritance.

Example: You receive a message on social media from someone with an attractive profile image claiming they have a mutual acquaintance with you. They initiate a lot of small talk over a period of time to gain your trust. Once trust is established, the scammer will eventually introduce an investment opportunity you don’t want to miss out on. After you invest a substantial amount, or attempt to withdraw, the scammer will delete their online presence and become unreachable.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you are being asked to deposit money into a cryptocurrency of any kind, always reach out to experts, family or friends for advice. If you are being asked for money that will deplete your retirement, banking and/or savings accounts, Do Not proceed. Unfortunately, there are many victims of this fraud resulting in the loss of their life savings or their entire retirement.

 

Being informed and recognizing the common red flags can protect you from being a victim of fraudulent activities. Create your own best practices for your online security, trust your instincts and never hesitate to verify the legitimacy of any request or offer.