The 5 Biggest Scams to Watch For
Every year, an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. are victims of fraud. However, only a fraction realize it and report it to the authorities.
The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker shows over 142,000 scams were reported last year in the U.S. — ranging from healthcare and Medicare scams to counterfeit products and online purchases.
The victims falling prey to these scams are not just the elderly either. According to the FTC, 40% of consumers who reported fraud last year were between the ages of 20 and 29.
Fraud never goes out of style and that’s why it’s vital to know what the most common types of scams are today and how you can protect yourself.
Phishing scams aren’t exactly new. But as technology improves, so do the scams.
Phishing attacks used to be a numbers game. Hackers would cast a wide net sending a generic email to you asking for your credit card info, passwords, or other pieces of sensitive information.
The emails were so generic that very few people took the bait. However, today phishing attacks look different.
Hackers are casting a smaller net with more customized bait. Hence the new name “spear-phishing.” The emails now look like they come from a company you know and trust or a relative or close friend.
Hackers will pose as your bank, credit card company, or a site like Dropbox or PayPal. You’ll receive an email that might prompt you to click a link to “verify account details.” From there, fileless malware is installed on your device.
These fileless attacks are also more difficult to detect, as most antivirus programs only scan your hard drive.
Losses from mobile fraud are reportedly in the billions and are expected to rise.
However most mobile fraud doesn’t affect consumers as much as it does businesses. Mobile fraud comes in a few different forms.
One example is called click flooding or click spamming. Scammers hack into free apps and when someone installs the app on their mobile device, a series of fraudulent clicks take place on ads displayed inside the app. This makes it seem like people are clicking on the paid ads within the app.
Click flooding is an issue for advertisers because it messes up brands’ marketing strategies. Advertisers believe they’re getting a high volume of clicks on their ads so they pay more money to keep running them.
An oldie but a goodie. Approximately $40 billion is lost to telemarketing fraud each year and more than 55% of the victims are people over the age of 50.
Telemarketing fraud happens when someone calls you up and asks you to send money right away or to “act now” to take advantage of some sort of special offer.
Telemarketers are very convincing and it’s extremely hard to get your money back if you do get cheated. Anytime you’re considering giving money over the phone, do your research about the company before you pull out your credit card.
Ask to see a written copy of the terms and conditions either by email or mail. Don’t ever feel like you have to make a decision on the spot.
Social Security Scams
What used to be the IRS scam is now the Social Security scam. According to Consumer Reports, fraudsters are increasingly making harassing calls posing as the Social Security Administration.
Criminals now have access to robocalling technology, so they can call more people, playing the numbers game until someone eventually pays.
Scammers can even call your cellphone using a number from your local area code that looks even more legit. For the social security scam, scammers like using an 800 number that looks like a call from the administration.
This scam is generally preying on Medicare patients and the elderly. Fraudsters tell targets they’re going to lose their benefits and ask for personal information to keep those benefits active.
Credit Report Scam
This scam targets job seekers and apartment hunters. You’ll see it on Craigslist and other online job boards.
How it works: the scam artists pose as prospective employers asking you to submit a credit report as part of the application process.
If you agree, they send you to a specific website where you might end up having to pay for the report. In some cases, the scammer will ask you to send your social security number along with an application or an image of your license or a utility bill. This is just another way for fraudsters to gain personal information for later use.
How to Protect Yourself
So how can you defend yourself against spear-phishers or robocalls that seem legit?
Never click links in an email that comes from a bank, government agency, or commercial institution. If the link comes from a company you know, check your account by going directly to the website and typing the URL into the navigation bar manually.
For mobile attacks, watch out for links sent via text message. While the concept is the same as traditional phishing, you might have the tendency to be more distracted on your mobile device and inadvertently click a bad link.
Lastly, the FTC recommends you hang up on recorded calls, avoid free trial offers, and be aware of how you pay for things online.
To a richer life,