Yesterday, I woke up to a startling surprise. A scammer tried to have $525 sent to him through an account that I never use, a card that was no longer active, and sent to a billing address that didn’t exist. Somehow, the transaction was approved. I had gotten an alert email sent to me and was able to stop it but would you believe that within a matter of minutes the same scammer tried again? Not only has he now been reported but if he tries to pick up the money, the people who would be releasing it will find that he’s not legit. His actions reminded me of how often scammers are attacking people who are working hard to keep living their lives and maintaining their families. For every scammer out there, there are millions of people who are falling prey to their antics and even more that are becoming aware of all kinds of tricks that are being used to scam you.
Here are some of the things that you can do to make sure you don’t fall prey to the schemes.
- Spot imposters. There are several ways to do this. Look at the email that it was sent from. Did it come from the company or does it appear that it’s come from an individual? The content that’s included may appear legit but scammers have gotten sneaky. They can make things appear as if they are legit when it’s far from it.
- Do online searches. This goes into research. I used to trust reviews more than I do now but many companies are paying for fake reviews. The key is to make sure that you are checking out various different sources. Don’t just take one source for its word. It could be misleading and you won’t be able to tell.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. I can say this with certainty because I’ve actually had my own phone number call me and I knew I wasn’t calling myself. Anything that looks suspicious probably is. I tend to look up phone numbers that call me just because I like to know if it’s a legitimate company or if it’s a scammer. You’d be amazed at what information you can find online.
- Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Again this goes back to research. Unless you are going to a business website that you know and trust, chances are scammers can get your information. Everything is our responsibility. You can be a smart consumer.
- Consider how you pay. With so many apps and payment choices available, it’s little to no wonder that payments can be compromised. Make sure that you are using encrypted services. Don’t let your information get into the wrong hands if you can avoid it. There’s a lot of services out there that want your money. Electronic payments may be easier but that doesn’t always mean they are safer. Make sure you are using secure servers before doing any transactions with your money.
- Talk to someone. Yesterday morning I was on the phone with Western Union because that’s the company the scammer used. Not only did I report it but I made sure that they knew I no longer use their service and haven’t in years. You may need to do the same. If your information has been compromised, be sure to talk to a human being to handle the situation. AI’s are great for simplistic issues but fraud problems are more common than people think.
- Hang up on robocalls. Better yet, invest in something like Robokiller. Robocalls are notorious for trying to get your information. Never say the word “yes”. They can steal that word and use it for voice dubbing to authorize things that you never agreed to.
- Be skeptical about free trial offers. Always read the fine print. Something may say that it’s free but it will end up costing you a lot more in the long run. Don’t skim over those offers. It’s tempting but there’s almost always a catch.
- Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. This one kills me. I can’t tell you how many companies have tried to get me to fall for this one. If you deposit a check into your bank, that information becomes easily accessible to scammers.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. This goes back to staying informed but it’s very important because scams are changing all the time. When the IRS calls that are scams are getting so many people to fall prey to them, there’s a problem. Remember if a company calls you telling you that you owe money and they don’t ask for you by name, then chances are high it’s a scam. If they want you to give them your social security number, don’t volunteer it. Ask them what number they have on file. If they refuse to tell you, then you know that they aren’t legit. There are all kinds of traps out there. Be aware of who is known for them.
Finally, not everyone is out to steal from you but that doesn’t mean that we have to give people a roadmap to our money. Take the precautions necessary and as Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show would say, “Nip it, nip, it, nip it in the bud.” No one likes to have their money trifled with. Don’t let anyone make you a victim.