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How to Avoid Being Scammed

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Avoiding scams in today's world seems like a challenge due to the multitude of different kinds of ways that scammers try to get ahold of your information or money. The advancement of technology has increased the ability of people and businesses to spot a scam while also enabling fraudsters with new ways to access personal information from victims. Last year, identity scams jumped nearly 26% from the year prior, with close to 15,000 cases reported to the Identify Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

That annual growth mirrors trends in overall fraud tracked by the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers reported 5.9 million total scams to the FTC in 2021, a 20% increase compared with 2020. Identity theft was the top offender, accounting for more than 1.4 million complaints.
Let's learn about how to know if you're being scammed and strategies that you can use to avoid them.

How to Know If You're Being Scammed

By recognizing the common signs that are indicative of a scam, you can avoid falling into one. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there are four common approaches that scammers use to try to scam victims:
  1. Gain your trust or claim to be a recognized business
  2. Suggest a verification procedure
  3. Appeal to your emotions
  4. Create a sense of urgency
Let's dive a little bit deeper into these common signs to show you how to know if you're being scammed.

Gain your Trust or Claim to be a Recognized Business

Fraudsters will typically pretend to be a reputable business or organization to help gain your trust to obtain your information. Scammers will often pretend to be a government entity, such as the IRS. Others will use the name of a business that you either know or do business with, such as your cell phone provider. Technology capabilities allow them to use fake names and numbers when contacting you.

Suggest a Verification Procedure

Another common approach that scammers use is to reach out and ask that you verify your information due to a problem with your account or to confirm a prize that you won. Fraudsters might say that one of your accounts has been compromised or that you owe money that must be paid. They may even tell you that you've won a sweepstake but need to pay a fee to claim it.

Appeal to your Emotions

Using threats to evoke your emotions and cause pressure for an immediate response is another tactic tricksters use to scam their victims. They may use negative consequences, such as a high fee, taking away a business license, etc., to get you to act.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Scammers want to avoid giving you time to think, so they encourage you to act quickly. This technique keeps victims from doing research on their stories to ensure that they’re valid.

Common Scamming Tactics

There are many different ways that tricksters will try to use the approaches we discussed to reach out to victims and gain their personal information. You don't need to know what all of them are, but we'll talk about some of the common scamming tactics that are used today.

The first is a phishing scam, which uses your bank or credit union contacting you via text message. Scammers may mix in legitimate SMS messages with fake ones to seem like they are actually from your bank or credit union. Eventually, they will text a malicious link to a phishing website to trick victims into giving away personal information like their passwords or credit card numbers.

Another common tactic is online shopping scams. Let's say that you're looking to buy a new lawn mower and see an ad on a social media platform advertising a great deal on a brand-name mower. When you click on the link, there are a few things to look for to know if you're being scammed. The first is that the website is not secure, which you can tell if the address bar is not "HTTPS" and includes a padlock icon. If the price of the product is highly enticing and seems too good to be true, then it likely is just that. Additionally, if they're using a non-secure payment method, such as digital payment app, wire transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, etc., it's a good sign that the website isn’t legitimate.

A final tactic involves using classified ads. For example, scammers may claim to be a reputable breeder of poodles without providing their breeder association membership number to allow you to verify their status. Again, in these cases, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Another method for avoiding scams like this is reviewing pictures and videos. These images are often stolen from other websites, so by doing a reverse-image search, you can discover if they originate from elsewhere.

Avoiding Scams

We’ve covered how to know if you’re being scammed, so let’s now focus on ways you can avoid them from the start. Here are a couple of best practices you can use in your everyday life to prevent being scammed.

Block Calls and Texts

If you're not sure who a caller is or who is texting you, your phone should allow you to block receiving calls or texts from those numbers. Avoiding scams by blocking these numbers will also save you from getting distracted by their calls or texts. Some cell phone providers also have call-block technology that automatically detects if the number calling you is from a potential scammer.

Don't Give Out Personal Information

Never provide your Social Security Number, bank account number, or other personal information over the phone or on a website that appears fishy. Instead, look for the legitimate information of the company or organization that's reaching out to you and confirm whether or not they have attempted to contact you.

Power Financial Credit Union is Here to Help

Power Financial Credit Union uses the latest technologies to safeguard your account while providing the flexibility to control your money using our app. With almost 35,000 members, we have proudly served the community of South Florida for over 70 years. Visit us today to learn more about how we can help.