How to Avoid Being Scammed
The most important thing to know about scams is that anyone can be a victim. Scammers use very effective tactics to appeal to your emotions rather than your intellect, so you should never blame yourself or not report a scam because you feel silly. In many cases, losses from scams increase because the victim is embarrassed or doesn’t want to admit how much information or access they gave up. If you think you have been scammed, call your FI immediately and let them know exactly what information you divulged or what accounts the scammer has access to. We are here to help you protect your information and your money!
Always start from a place of skepticism. An odd email from an acquaintance, a text claiming to be USPS trying to deliver a package, or a phone call to inform you that you have a won a prize can all seem like perfectly ordinary occurrences, but these are all red flags and should be approached carefully. Below are details on how to spot common scam red flags.
Red Flag 1 – There is an Unexpected/Urgent Problem or a Prize
Scammers will use either the threat of consequences or the promise of a prize or monetary gain to get you worked up. They may call you saying they have detected fraudulent transactions on your account, or that you have won a prize and must give them your information to claim it. Statements like these should increase your skepticism, NOT your emotions. Scammers hope to get you so emotional that you stop thinking logically.
Red Flag 2 – Pressure
The next thing a scammer will do is apply pressure. Whatever the scenario is, there will be one common theme: urgency or scarcity. You need to act NOW to prevent any more fraudulent transactions on your account. You have won a prize, but there are only 2 left and if you wait and think about it, you’ll be too late. There is a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity, but unless you wire the funds by noon, you will miss out. Legitimate businesses, as well as the government, will never pressure you for an immediate decision.
Red Flag 3 – They want your personal information, banking information, or your passwords
You should think of your personal information and passwords as assets that are just as valuable as the funds in your account. If a stranger called you and asked you to lend them money, it’s pretty unlikely you would be comfortable with that. You should be protecting your personal information in the exact same way – by ensuring the person, company, or website is who they say they are before supplying any information. If you have any concerns, get the caller’s name, company name and number, and hang up. Search the company online and verify they are legitimate and don’t have complaints against them. Find the website, call the number listed there, then you can ask to be transferred to the person you were speaking with. Now you have successfully confirmed that the company who contacted you is legitimate and the person actually works for the stated company.
Legitimate companies or government agencies will NEVER:
- Contact you to inform you there is a security breach on your personal computer and ask you to pay them to remove it or to give them remote access to your computer
- Ask you to read an authorization code texted to your mobile device back to them over the phone
- Ask you to deposit checks into your account and then send some of the money back to them
- Ask you to pay a fee to receive lottery winnings or prizes – this is ILLEGAL
- Contact you about an inheritance and offer to share the proceeds with you
- Contact you about an undelivered package and ask you to pay a fee to receive it
- Contact you out of the blue with threats or promises of money
Red Flag – Payments and Wire Transfers
When a scammer finally has you on the hook, they have one priority: to get your money before you realize what has happened and cancel the payment. They often do this by requesting payment in forms that are difficult to trace or cancel. If they request you make a payment in Bitcoin, gift cards/prepaid cash cards, or through P2P services like Venmo or Zelle, you should be extremely cautious, as these types of payments are difficult or impossible to reverse or cancel.
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