Scammers keep getting bolder and bolder with their extortion methods. From impersonating landlords to illegal debt collection tactics, there is no shortage of ways scammers will try to separate you from your money.1
Be aware of these five red flags when getting on the phone, checking your email, or using social media. Looking for these warning signs can help you avoid getting trapped in a conversation with a scammer in the first place.
Many people believe they would never fall for these types of scams, but everyone needs to stay vigilant despite their level of technology savviness.
Red Flag #1: They Make an Identity Claim
Many scammers are now utilizing strategies in which they claim to be trustworthy sources, such as a government agency or even your bank, to extract information from you. If you receive a strange text or email with an unfamiliar hyperlink (or a phone call asking you to visit a suspicious or unfamiliar URL), this is a telltale sign that you are being targeted for a scam.2
Never click on mysterious hyperlinks or respond to uncertified messages asking for your personal information, especially if it involves money or account numbers. For instance, many scammers claim to be government agencies. Do not blindly trust these claims. Scammers can create legitimate-looking emails and websites, and they can even list real-looking phone numbers with Google – always do proper research before making an online purchase or transferring funds.
Red Flag #2: They Need Your Personal Information Immediately
A scammer’s goal is to get your personal information as quickly as possible. Scammers prey on people’s fears. In addition to making a brazen identity claim, a scammer will often state that he or she needs information or money immediately and that if they don’t get this information right now, something terrible will happen. Be aware of this behavior instead of allowing it to induce stress.
If you are already in contact with a potential scammer and start displaying doubts, a scammer may even get aggressive about needing your information. This is another sign that you are dealing with a scam. A genuine source will never require you to reveal personal information in this manner.3
Red Flag #3: You Must Wire Money
Once a scammer receives money from you, his or her goal is to disappear with it, becoming extremely difficult to track. If an entity is asking you to send money via wire transfer, a prepaid card reload pack, or a gift card, this is likely a scam because these payment methods are more difficult to track.3
Moreover, if someone is requiring you to send money quickly in an unorthodox fashion, they are most likely scammers.
Scammers may even ask you to pay yourself. They may contact you impersonating a representative with a company you already have a relationship with, such as a credit card or bank, and tell you that they have noticed suspicious activity on your account. They could ask you to send the money to yourself with Zelle or another method to reverse the payment. They may ask you to provide personal information, and you might even see them spoof the real institution’s caller ID, or request remote access to your device by downloading an app to fix an “issue” or transfer funds.
When in doubt, always hang up the phone and call the institution back at a known/verifiable phone number.
Red Flag #4: The Scam Does Not Apply to You
This is one of the more obvious indications of a scam. For instance, a scammer may contact a teenager about car insurance when the teenager does not even own a car in his or her name. Nonetheless, the frightening and urgent language of the call could get this person stuck in an uncomfortable conversation with someone who is likely a scammer.
If somebody approaches or calls you with an offer or issue that clearly does not apply to you, get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
Red Flag #5: It Is Too Good to Be True
Unfortunately, getting an excellent deal may be a sign that it’s a scam. A scammer will promise you something that seems too good to be true as a way to draw you in. Even if a scammer’s website seems extremely official or a scammer approaches you in person while looking very professional, that may be a front to gain trust.
This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed, and it can happen in almost any area of business. Always stay wary of untrustworthy sources, and if you seem to be getting too good of a deal on insurance or even something as big as an apartment rental or car, do more research on the identity of the source.
It is much easier to get scammed than one would think. Make sure that you are aware of the telltale signs of a scam and avoid allowing your fear to get the best of you in these situations. Getting scammed is often a taxing and costly ordeal that nobody deserves to experience.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Strategic Financial Planning, Inc. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered legal or tax advice.