It’s easy to think a little common sense will protect us from scammers, but the truth is no one is immune. Most of us know better than to engage with princes from Nigeria who want to give us millions of dollars, but scams keep evolving into new forms that are harder to detect. These tips will help you protect yourself from some of the worst scams.
These scammers prey on your worst fears by sending a scary email or text message that appears to be from your bank, PayPal, or favorite shopping site. The email will tell you that your account is locked down or in trouble and that you need to click a link to log in immediately. When you click on the link and enter your username and password, you are handing them over to the scammer rather than logging into your account.
Protect yourself: Never log in to your accounts through a link in an email. If you’re concerned, go to your browser and log in to your account directly from the bank’s website. If there’s a problem with your account, they’ll let you know as soon as you log in.
In this scam, you’ll receive an email or private message that appears to be from someone you know. Usually, the person will claim to be in trouble overseas due to a medical emergency or robbery and will ask you to wire money.
Protect yourself: If you receive a message like this, try to contact your friend by phone to confirm that they’re in trouble or ask other friends or family members if they know what’s going on.
Online Dating Scams
In a variation of the scam above, con artists use fake dating profiles to make a strong connection with you and then beg for your help with some kind of medical or travel emergency.
Protect yourself: Scammers usually look for people far away, and they rarely resemble the photos they steal for their profile, so date locally and insist on meeting in person, in a public place, for coffee. Have a healthy skepticism around people who claim to be native English speakers but use phrasing that feels “off,” like “I will like to get to know you.” Don’t send money to people you’ve never met. Dating can expose your information to a variety of people, so you may want to consider using a number tracker to make sure people are who they claim to be.
Although many scams are online these days, phone scams still exist. The most common phone scams include bank alerts (similar to phishing), work-at-home offers that sound too good to be true, announcing that you’ve won a big prize in a contest you never entered, charities that don’t exist, and bogus IRS or police warnings.
Protect yourself: Very little important business is handled over the phone these days. If you’re in trouble with the IRS or there’s a problem at your bank, you’ll receive a notice in the mail. Unless you know the caller, be very suspicious.
Never let anyone rush you into sending money or handing over your passwords or credit card information. There’s always time to consult a wise friend, call a company directly, or verify someone’s credentials.