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Avoiding scams in today's world seems like a challenge due to the multitude of different 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 to access personal information from victims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received 1.4 million reports of identity thefts so far in 2023, a number that keeps increasing along with the average cost to the victims. In fact, victims lost 30% more to scams in 2022 compared to 2021.
Identity theft cases account for 25% of all fraud reports filed with the FTC. Compared to 2022, more than half of consumers say they feel more targeted by fraud in 2023, a sentiment that reflects the steady increase in criminals using scamming tactics.
Knowing how to avoid being scammed is more important than ever. Read on to learn more about common strategies used by scammers and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
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:
- Gain your trust or claim to be a recognized business
- Suggest a verification procedure
- Appeal to your emotions
- 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 gain your trust and 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.
Email is another common channel for impersonating trusted people and organizations. With 8 billion spam emails sent daily in the U.S., users need to watch out for scammers using titles, templates, and wording that aims to emulate credit unions and other trusted organizations.
Phishing emails usually prompt recipients to follow a link to a malicious login page that will steal their credentials or download an infected attached file.
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.
Use common sense when receiving a request to verify your information, and always double-check the URL of the site you’re using when sharing your login credentials. Credit unions and other financial institutions will never reach out to ask for your password.
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.
Always be wary of messages that create a sense of urgency. When in doubt, reach out to the organization via an official contact channel to find out if you need to take action.
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.
Phishing and Spoofing
The first is a phishing scam, which uses your bank or credit union to contact you via text message. Scammers may mix legitimate SMS messages with fake ones to make it 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.
Email phishing is another common tactic. Scammers can create email addresses similar to the ones financial institutions use and reproduce official email templates to trick recipients into following a link to a fake login page that will steal their credentials.
Some scammers are using advanced techniques to spoof phone numbers and call victims, or they are turning to social media to gather personal information and create a highly personalized type of attack known as spearfishing.
Be mindful of the information you share online, and never trust a message that asks you to take action right away. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Check the sender’s email address.
- If you followed a link, compare the URL to your financial institution’s official website.
- A legitimate website will always have a URL that starts with HTTPS.
- Spelling and grammar errors can sometimes give scammers away.
If you receive a call, text, or email that seems suspicious, reach out to your financial institution via an official contact channel to find out whether your account needs attention. Never respond directly to suspicious communication.
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 apps, wire transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, etc., it's a good sign that the website isn’t legitimate.
Victims lost $2.7 billion to social media scams between 2021 and 2023, making it the top channel in terms of losses. Personalized ads are proving to be one of the most lucrative strategies for scammers, and social media platforms are slow to take action to protect users.
If you come across an offer on social media, the safest option is to look up the merchant’s website and see if this offer is legitimate instead of following the link that appears in your feed.
You should also be wary of adding people you don’t know and watch out for messages asking you to click on links. Spoofing is another common issue, with criminals copying existing profiles. If you receive a friend request from someone you know, use a different channel to confirm the request is legitimate.
A final tactic involves using classified ads. For example, scammers may claim to be reputable breeders 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.
All you have to do is right-click on the image and select ‘Search Image with Google.’ You can also copy a few sentences from the ad and paste them into a search engine. Add some quotation marks to conduct an exact search, and you’ll likely find the same ad targeting victims in different areas.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
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.