From IRS to health care, tech support and work-at-home scams, there are scams for any topic and can often seem official. Now more than ever, we are all being targeted by scammers whose ultimate goal is to take our money or gain personal information that can be used for identity theft. Many scams require urgent action, payment by wire or gift cards, and secrecy - these are red flags and you should use caution. A few of these recurring scams may sound familiar to you:
- You’ve won a prize! Then, in order to claim your prize, you are asked to pay a processing fee, taxes, or shipping and handling charges.
- Family emergency. You are contacted by a “family member” in distress. They may have been arrested, in an accident, have a medical emergency or another situation and need you to send money right away.
- You owe a fee or taxes. You must pay right away by gift card, wiring money, or by giving access to your bank account information. You may even be presented with an urgent scenario and told that “the police are on their way to arrest you.”
- Overseas relationship. You meet an online friend and begin to build a relationship with them while they are overseas. They may express the need for cash - of course they have the funds in their account, but don’t have access at the moment and ask you to wire money right away and they will pay you back. They will even offer to process a mobile deposit if you give them your online banking login.
- Get paid to drive! You are offered $250-$350 a week if you will have your vehicle (or motorcycle) wrapped to advertise a known product. If you sign up, you may receive a check for a couple thousand dollars, but are asked to deposit it and wire the rest to a company that will wrap your car. Weeks after you wire the money, the check bounces and you are out the funds and still responsible for the money you wired. Preloaded gift cards may also be presented as an alternate to wiring funds.
Scammers also watch the headlines and 2020 has presented additional scam opportunities regarding COVID-19 cures or treatments, home test kits, stimulus checks, personal protection equipment, and emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO just to name a few! Natural disasters due to flood, hail, fire and other factors can lead to contractor scams or even charity scams.
There are thousands of new scams every year and it can be challenging to keep up with all of them. Your best defense is to be alert, informed and vigilant! From a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) article, we found these three simple but effective tips to help safeguard yourself against scams:
- Don’t engage with a scam offer. Ignore the emails, throw away the mailers, and delete the friend requests. Hang up on bogus tax and debt collection calls and imposter phishing scams. If it sounds too easy or too good to be true - unfortunately, it is probably a scam.
- Learn about scams and scammers’ tactics. Those who know more about specific scams and tactics used by scammers are more likely to reject an offer and avoid losing money. The news may feature occasional scams and government websites such as the FTC, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offer valuable tips and list common scams to help you stay informed.
- Talk to someone. Some individuals caught up in scams can be helped by store cashiers and bank tellers who talk to them about the purpose of the wire transfer or why you may be sending funds. When you have been approached with a scam, sharing with your friends and family can help them avoid it as well.
We are here to help! If you feel that you were a victim of any type of fraud or believe your personal or financial information has been compromised, please contact a Bank First representative right away.