Common Scams and How to Avoid Them
Fraudsters have been around forever, whether it was shopkeepers using rigged scales in the Middle Ages, vendors selling snake oil in the 1800s, or one of the most infamous investment scams, the first Ponzi scam, in 1920. (Named after Charles Ponzi, who sold postal coupons guaranteeing a 50 percent return.)
Understanding the most common scams today:
Unscrupulous crooks continue to find ways to steal your identity. They may steal your wallet, your trash or try soliciting you for information by phone, email or text message. Often, these solicitations seem amazingly valid. But beware. If you become a victim of identity theft, money can be stolen from your accounts, credit applied for in your name, a bogus driver’s license and insurance issued and more.
The FBI has an excellent website devoted to identity theft and can help you from becoming a victim. The best protection is being extremely careful with all of your data and not to do business with those you don’t know or trust.
Claims To Clean Up Your Credit
These scams profess to clean up your credit quickly for a charge. They promise a fresh start or clean slate. However, what really happens is a collection of your personal information; the fraudsters then sell your Social Security number illegally, causing more grief.
Internet Auction Fraud
As a buyer, fraud can include a misrepresentation of the product or non-delivery of the item; as a seller, bogus customers may lure you with counterfeit checks or wire transfer schemes.
Before making any transaction, know who you are doing business with; verify the legitimacy of the company and its reputation. View the company’s website or check its security credentials. Investigate its online rating or check with the Better Business Bureau.
Counterfeit Checks & Wire Transfers
According to Consumer.ftc.gov, check and wire transfer scams continue to attract unsuspecting victims.
- Winning a foreign lottery – the trick is to get you to wire money to someone you don’t know.
- Check overpayment – targets consumers selling items online, either through a classified ad or online auction and typically for higher ticket items, like a car.
- Secret Shopper – you’re asked to evaluate a “money transfer service.” You may be given a check, told to deposit it into your bank account, and withdraw the amount in cash. Then, you’re instructed to send the cash to the money transfer service specified.
Ways to keep your data safe:
- Remember to NEVER give out your personal information to an unknown caller, solicitor or email sender.
- Do not open unfamiliar email messages, download attachments or click on links contained within the email. Also, never send personal information via email to anyone. (Email channels may not be secure.)
- Not every text is safe; if you don’t know the sender, don’t accept the content.
- Keep all of your devices, including your phone, locked with a passcode. Use a complicated code for security, but even a basic code is better than none. Also, try a blend of letters and symbols for greater strength. Use a separate password for each device.
- Take advantage of eStatements, alerts, and online and mobile banking. These tools let you conveniently and quickly monitor your accounts for fraud.
- Shred unwanted mail solicitations, personal documents, and any suspicious offers. When gone for a length of time, halt your mail temporarily.
- Sign up for direct deposit. You won’t have to worry about a lost or stolen check. (Thieves steal a lot of personal data from unprotected mailboxes.)
- Review your credit a few times a year. You can check for errors or potential fraud, as well as monitor your credit score.
- Take advantage of an ID Protection program.
Staying informed can protect you and your family.
Thieves continue to reinvent ways to cheat us. But armed with the right information, you can save yourself a lot of grief. One of our favorite resources is FBI.gov. The website outlines current scams with tips to keep you protected. Or call us anytime. We’ll be happy to review any offers you receive.