Protecting Yourself from Scams
On top of everything else going on in the world today, it is even more disheartening to know that there are scammers out there who would take you for all you’re worth if you let them. They’re everywhere. But fortunately, you can fight back and protect yourself with relatively little effort.
For the most part, the following tips on avoiding different kinds of scams are based on simple common sense:
Scammers revel in the anonymity of the internet. Email, in particular, has made it very convenient for scammers to broadcast offers for things like getting millions of dollars from African princes or winnings for sweepstakes that you don’t recall even entering. All you have to do is give them your banking information or Social Security Number. Hopefully, you know better than to fall for such claims.
Next to these classic but clumsy efforts to get your financial information, there are more sophisticated approaches. You may get supposed communications from your bank, your boss, or the government. On the surface, they may look totally legitimate. However, links in these emails could actually lead to spoofed websites designed to steal your log-in information, or they may load malware onto your computer.
To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites. Verify the sender’s email. And note the tone and grammar of the email itself for errors. If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly to verify the email’s legitimacy.
We’ve all gotten them: calls or texts from phone numbers that look familiar. But, with no name coming up on the caller ID, we don’t know for sure. It could be someone you know, or a company with which you do business. On the other hand, it could be a scammer. These days, scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers. That way, they could be calling from across the country—or even outside the US—but look like they’re calling locally.
These calls or texts are out to achieve much the same things as a fake email. Scammers want money, or at least, information that can eventually lead them to money. This means they will try to get valuable personal or business information from you directly. Or they could persuade you to give them access to your device or network, where they can get the information they want without further help from you.
If you are unsure, do not answer a call or click on a link in a text right away. To try and verify the legitimacy of an unknown phone number, you can look it up with a reverse phone lookup. Such a tool can reveal the owner or entity that’s actually behind the phone number. It if turns out that the caller or texter is someone you recognize, great! Otherwise, you can report the number to the FCC and/or phone scam sites as a likely scam.
The in-person scam may no longer be as common as electronic scams. But they do still happen. In-person scammers are confident. They set out to dazzle and pressure you with fast, persuasive talk. They may use things like natural disasters, sad children, or homeless animals to play off your emotions and take your money.
Before you hand over any cash or credit card info, make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity. There are a number of charity watchdog sites online; just look up the charity name to find out if it’s real and if it’s effective in its mission. And to make sure that a person is a real representative of that charity, you can contact the organization directly to confirm that the person in front of you really works for them.
Not so hard, right? Yes, the idea of scammers may be disappointing. But with these tips for identifying scams, you can at least be confident that you are able to stay one step ahead of them.