Modern Day Scams: How to Protect Yourself
In the high-tech world we live in today, the possibility of being targeted for a scam or a malicious scheme is well-known. You may be aware of some of the more common, somewhat outdated scams, but today’s criminals, however, have become increasingly devious. They know that many people are onto their prior efforts, so they now go to even greater lengths to try to trick consumers into providing vital personal or financial details. This may include everything from your bank account or credit card account info to your Social Security number, account password and other details. The following are some of the more advanced schemes that consumers now must also be on the watch for.
Facebook Marketplace/Online Purchases
An employee of mine recently almost got scammed on Facebook Marketplace trying to sell an Xbox. Facebook Marketplace is extremely popular today and people are exchanging goods and money every day using the app. Usually, you would think scammers would be the ones trying to sell you fake goods. However, my employee had an individual offer to buy the Xbox and suggested using Zelle to pay for the services. After a lot of back and forth and getting confirmation emails from Zelle, she realized the emails were ‘off’ and the scammer was asking to be refunded for an amount because he overpaid, even though she never got any notification from her bank that funds were received. She realized it was a scam and blocked and reported the user. It’s very important to never give out personal information, even if they ask for your phone number to call you for some reason.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the biggest risk to consumers last year was online purchase scams where you buy something online and never receive it.1 These scammers often live on marketplaces like Facebook or other websites and social media. Make sure to look for red flags – prices that are too good, little details provided, high-pressure sales, etc.
Phone Related Scams
There are many ways your smart phone can be used by scammers. Calls, Texts, Apps, Emails, and Social Media are all methods that can be used to access your personal information.
Impersonators: Fear is used by scammers to trick you into giving them personal information like your Social Security number. They might act like the police, IRS, or even a relative talking about a criminal record or account to try and scare you into letting your guard down.
Robocalls: This is one of the older tricks in the book. However, scammers are getting more creative and more convincing. You might get a call from what sounds like a real person offering car warranties or vacations, or they even may even threaten you somehow to grab your attention.
Texts: If you receive a text from an unknown number or email, do not click on any links or use any QR codes. Anything you click on could give the scammer the ability to download malware on your phone.
Fake Mobile Banking Apps: You now do not even need to click on bogus links in an email to potentially fall victim to a scam. Some criminals have now developed apps that look very similar to those of major financial institutions. They then use the fake apps to collect personal and financial data. You must always conduct due diligence before downloading any institution’s banking app. This also applies to apps for investments, stock trading, credit cards and more.
Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment app, much like Cash app or Venmo. However, recently it’s been used as a tool for scammers to get personal information or money. They will email, call, or text you pretending to be someone at your bank or the credit union’s fraud department stating that there’s been suspicious activity, or someone is trying to steal your money on Zelle. Next, they might try walking you through the issue to try and fix it by asking you to send money to yourself. However, the scammers will make sure the money goes to their account.
One-Time Password Bots (OTP)
With two-factor authentication required by many institutions now, authentication codes are sent almost anytime you login to an account. Scamming OTP bots are used to trick people into sharing authentication codes sent via email or text. One of these bots might pose as your bank calling to authorize a purchase and ask for the code. However, they are trying to log onto your account which triggers the two-factor authentication. If they receive the code from you, they will be able to log into your account.
Ways to Protect Yourself
Some of these scams you may have experienced yourself or know someone who has, and some may be new to you. Either way, it’s important to always be skeptical of situations when it involves your personal information: phone number, address, Social Security number, etc. Scammers are always coming up with new and creative ways to try and trick you and catch you off guard. Make sure to remember these things before giving out any of your information.
- If someone contacts you first, be suspicious and don’t share any personal information.
- Utilize two-factor authentication if available for passwords required to get into sensitive areas. Yes, it is an extra step, but well worth it if it prevents you from being hacked.
- Research. Research the company, phone number, email address, etc. of the entity trying to contact you. Try reading reviews or searching scams with the name.
- “Don’t refund or forward overpayments.”1 Most of the time, the original payment is fake.
- Look for anything that seems “off.” Often, if you have a bad gut feeling or something feels fishy, it is.
- Use a credit card for online purchases to limit potential losses.
- Research how to get free credit monitoring, so you are alerted by unusual changes in your credit report.
- Never share your passwords with anyone and make sure and change them periodically. Utilize a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols and to not use the same password across multiple accounts.
- Never provide your financial details via email or to an untrusted and unverified third-party.
Remember to strive to actively safeguard your data. Rest assured that we will never ask for Social Security numbers, account numbers or bank info over the phone. We encourage you to always be on the lookout and to take security precautions on your end as well.
In the high-tech world we live in today, unfortunately criminals are becoming increasingly savvy every day. As technology advances, unfortunately their unscrupulous techniques advance as well. At MFG, we vow to do our best to keep you updated about the latest scams so that you can make informed decisions and take the necessary precautions.