Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money. Scammers are expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including those who are down on their luck or are exceptionally naive and trusting.
Here at SouthPoint, our biggest priority is your financial wellness, and that includes keeping you and your money safe. To help you achieve it, we’ve put together this guide about recognizing the signs of fraud.
Five red flags of scams
While the details surrounding the way a scam plays out can vary greatly, most follow a similar theme. They try to get victims to share personal information or to pay for a service or product that doesn’t exist.
Here are five ways to spot a scammer:
- They demand detailed information before agreeing to process an application. A favorite ploy among scammers is asking for sensitive, non-public information like your date of birth, Social Security Number and login information for online accounts. They will typically do this before processing any application for an alleged product, service or job.
- They insist on a specific method of payment. If an online seller or service provider will only accept payment through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, you’re likely looking at a scam.
- They send you a check for an inflated amount. Another favorite trick among scammers is to overpay a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to return the extra money. In a few days’ time, when the original, inflated check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been conned but it’s too late to get back the “extra” money they returned.
- You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents. A scammer representing a bogus business can easily be uncovered by doing a quick online search about the “company.”
- You’re pressured to act now. Scammers are always in a rush to complete their ruse before you catch onto their act.
Who are the targets?
Scammers usually cast a wide net to ensnare as many victims as possible. However, lots of scams focus on a subset of highly vulnerable targets.
- The unemployed. The internet makes it easy for scammers to learn that you’re looking for a job. If you’re job hunting, be careful not to respond to any emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied for or even knew about.
- The aging. Older people are another favorite target for scammers. Retired individuals often spend lots of time online, making them more vulnerable to scams. Also, as relative newcomers to the online world, they may be less aware of the dangers lurking on the internet.
- Children. Sadly, the youngest members of society are another huge target pool for scammers. Children are naturally trusting and will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity. Small children will likely not be checking their credit for years, which means a stolen identity can go unchecked until the child grows into a young adult. By that time their credit can be wrecked, almost beyond repair.
10 ways to protect yourself from scams
- Never share personal information online.
- Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links.
- Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party.
- Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
- Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
- Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself.
- Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.
- If you have elderly parents who spend time online, teach them to protect themselves.
- Don’t take the identity of callers at face value, even if your Caller ID verifies their story. Tell them you’ll contact them on your own and then end the call.
- Never accept a job or agree to pay for a purchase or service without thoroughly researching the company involved.