Fraud is everywhere: online / email, phone calls or texts, and even face to face. Fraud continues to grow because people keep falling for it. They are profitable, so they probably won’t go away anytime soon.
You cannot prevent fraud from occurring altogether. However, you can at least ensure that you do not fall victim to such a victim. There are a variety of scams out there that differ in their details. However, there are a few basics to keep in mind that can help you protect yourself from all types of scams.
Photo by fizkes, courtesy shutterstock.com
Email & Online Fraud
Scammers thrive on the Internet largely thanks to its anonymity. Emails in particular have made it very convenient for “Nigerian princes” to ask for your help in bringing millions of dollars to America, or to inform you of the sweepstakes you claimed to have won. All you have to do is give them your bank details, social security number, etc.
Even if you now know better than (hopefully) to fall for these old-school scams, email scammers, or “phishers” are nothing if not adaptive. In addition to the more inept efforts mentioned above, there are other more sophisticated approaches such as seemingly legitimate communications from the bank, your boss, or the government. However, the links in such emails can actually lead to fake websites that steal your login information or download malware onto your computer.
To avoid falling victim to phishing scams:
- Do not click anything and do not reply to the email.
- Hover over links to see if they go to legitimate websites.
- Check the sender’s email address.
- Pay attention to the tone and grammar of the email itself for mistakes or overly urgent language.
- Contact the alleged sender directly to check the legality of the email.
If you happen to click on a link in a suspicious-looking email, you might be taken to a legitimate website. However, a closer look could reveal that you are on a fake website that looks official but is actually just a copy designed to trick you into signing up or entering other private information.
As with email, look for subtle errors in terms of color, logo, or content. In the main search bar, look for a padlock icon next to the URL. Its presence shows that the site is secure and vice versa.
This phone number that calls or sends an SMS may sound familiar to you. It could be someone you know or a company you do business with. Or it could be a scammer. Nowadays, scammers have the ability to forge phone numbers and text numbers. This way they can call or text messages across the country, but they look like they’re there for you.
These phone calls or texts are almost like a phishing email: money. Or information that they can use to make money. They may be trying to obtain valuable personal or business information directly from you. Or they could trick you into giving them access to your device or network, where they can get information for themselves.
If you are not sure, do not answer a call or immediately reply to a text. First, try to check the legitimacy of an unknown phone number with a reverse phone search. Such a tool can help identify the real owner behind the number.
If the caller or copywriter turns out to be someone you recognize, that’s great. If the number turns out to be a scam, all you have done is stop yourself from becoming a victim.
Personal scams are not as common as online scams these days. But they still happen. Personal scammers are confident – they’re not afraid to look you in the eye – and they set out to confuse you and pressurize you with quick, persuasive conversations. They use things like natural disasters, homeless children or abused animals to play off your emotions and take your money.
Before providing any payment information, make sure that you are giving something to a real charity and that the person you are speaking to is a real representative of that charity. There are several charity watchdog websites online. Just search for the charity name to find out if it is real and effective in its mission. Then contact the charity directly to confirm that the person you are speaking to is really working for them.
Regardless of the source, you should always be careful with new or unfamiliar contacts if you want to identify and avoid fraud. Do not let anyone pressure you to give information or money. Take the time to do the necessary due diligence to make yourself comfortable and confident that you are dealing with legitimate people or businesses.
What does it all mean? You don’t have to feel paranoid that everyone is out to get you. You don’t have to be cynical either. But you should be smart and use your common sense.