It may seem like, everywhere you turn, you need to be on the lookout for some kind of scam. It’s true that there are a lot of scammers out there. But you don’t have to wear yourself out by worrying about them.
All you need to do is note some of the common signs of scams. Knowing these signs can ensure you’re prepared, no matter where a scam originates.
Online & Email Scams
The internet is a haven for scammers, thanks to the anonymity it provides. Email, in particular, has made it very convenient for scammers to broadcast offers for things like millions of dollars from Nigerian princes or winning a sweepstakes that you don’t recall even entering. To take advantage of such offers, 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. However, next to these clumsier attempts to get your financial information, there are more sophisticated approaches. You may get what look like communications from your bank, your boss, or even the government. On the surface, they could appear official. Except links in these emails could actually lead to spoofed websites, which are designed to steal your log-in information or load malware onto your device.
To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, simply hover your cursor over any links to see if they go to legitimate websites. (Don’t click on them until you know for sure.) Verify the sender’s email. And note the tone and grammar of the email itself for errors or for overly threatening language.
Still unsure after investigating? Don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly—by phone or in-person—to verify the email’s legitimacy.
Phone & Text Scams
You’ve gotten them before: calls or texts from phone numbers that look familiar but, with no name coming up on the caller ID, you don’t know for sure. It could be someone you know or a company with which you do business. Or, it could be a scammer. These days, scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers. That way, they could be calling all the way from across the country—or even outside the US—but they look like they’re local.
These calls or texts are out to achieve much the same things as a fake email. Scammers want money. Or they want information that can eventually get them money. This means they may 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 any information they want without further help from you.
If you don’t who’s on the other end of the line, do not answer a call or click on a text link right away. Try and verify the legitimacy of an unknown phone number first by looking it up with a reverse phone lookup. Such a tool may be able to 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, that’s great. Otherwise, you just saved yourself an interaction with a scammer. In that case, you can report the number to the FCC and/or phone scam sites as a likely scam.
Face-to-face scams may no longer be as common as electronic scams. But they do still happen with some regularity.
In-person scammers are confident. They set out to dazzle and pressure you with fast, persuasive talk. These days, they often portray themselves as representatives of a charity. With that, in-person scammers can use things like natural disasters, sad children, or economic downturns to play off your emotions and take your money.
Before you hand over any cash or credit card info, make sure you’re donating to a real charity. Look up the charity online on a charity watchdog site. That way, you should be able to find out if it’s legitimate. Then, to make sure that a person is an actual representative of that charity, you can contact the organization directly to confirm if the person in front of you really works for them.
In short, scammers rely on making their marks act without thinking. Taking the time to calmly consider and research the legitimacy of emails, phone calls, and charity outreach is ultimately all that most people need to do to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.