Don’t Let Scammers Take Advantage of You

Dear Rich Lifer,

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 2.2 million reports of fraud, with Americans losing nearly $3.3 billion!

If you ask us, those numbers are low.

According to fraud experts, the number of unreported cases of fraud is really in the tens of millions, so you can imagine what the true cost of these scams actually looks like.

And, at the height of a global pandemic, it’s very likely scams have gone unnoticed by already struggling and vulnerable Americans.

The most popular scams last year were imposter scams — where fraudsters posed as government officials, businesses, and family members or friends.

The FTC received nearly 500,000 reports of imposter scams, and Americans reported losing $1.2 billion to these scams, with a median loss of $850.

The victims falling prey to these scams were not just the elderly either. According to the FTC, 40% of consumers who reported fraud were between the ages of 20 and 29.

Scam artists are becoming more crafty by the minute, so it’s critical you know what the most common types of scams are today so you can protect yourself. Here are ten scams to watch out for this year.

COVID ‘Vaxxie’ Scam

A popular trend on social media right now is showing off your vaccination card with a selfie, aka, a vaxxie. Fraudsters recognized this trend and pounced.

The scam: Because COVID vaccination cards list your full name, birth date, and information about where you received your shot, fraudsters have enough information for identity theft, can break into your bank accounts, and get credit cards in your name.

How to protect yourself: If you feel the need to tell your friends and family you got your shot, a selfie with a generic vaccine sticker is enough. You can also use the Got My Vaccine profile picture frame on social media. Just make sure your profile is secure and you know who can see your posts.

Phony Social Security Calls

The scam: Fraudsters use spoofed phone numbers that look like they’re calling from Washington, D.C., and say your Social Security number was used in a crime. For instance, they may say your number was used to rent a car where drugs were found and the Drug Enforcement Agency is on their way to your house unless you send money to resolve the matter. Scammers will even go as far as directing you to a local law-enforcement website where you can see who is supposedly calling.

How to protect yourself: Never pick up the phone unless you know who’s calling. If it’s truly important, they will leave a voicemail. Look up the phone number that called you and see if anyone else has reported it as suspicious online.

Zoom Phishing Scam

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers registered more than 2,449 fake Zoom-related internet domains in the early months of the pandemic, just so they could send out emails that look like they’re from the popular video conferencing website.

The scam: Con artists will send an email, text, or message through social media with a Zoom logo and a link. They’ll say your account has been suspended or you’ve missed a meeting. When you click on the link, scammers download malicious software onto your computer, where they can access your personal info and hack into your other accounts.

How to protect yourself: Never click links from unsolicited emails, texts, or social media messages. If you think there’s an issue with your Zoom account, go to the Zoom.us website and open a customer support ticket.

Fake Online Stores

This might not be new per se, but fake online retail stores look more and more like the real thing these days. And with so many people shifting their shopping to online, these scams have multiplied.

The scam: Fraudsters run ads on social media and on frequently visited websites promoting goods at bargain prices from brands you trust. They do this in hopes you’ll enter your credit card details to purchase the items. Then the items are either never shipped or you get some knock-off version.

How to protect yourself: If you see an item from a brand you like, don’t click on the ad. Instead, go straight to the brand’s website to find the item for purchase. There’s no point trying to figure out if the website advertising the item is real or fake since scammers are quick to adapt. If buying from a new website, check with the BBB for reviews.

Medicare ID Scams

There’s been an uptick in fraudsters calling, emailing, and even knocking on doors claiming to be from Medicare to offer you pandemic-related services.

The scam: Scammers will ask you to “verify” your Medicare ID Number then offer you an upgrade card that claims to have microchips and can bump you up in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.

How to protect yourself: If someone is calling, knocking on your door, or emailing about Medicare, hang up, shut the door, and hit delete. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Medicare will never contact you without permission for your Medicare number or other personal information. And it will never call to sell you anything. Guard your Medicare number and never pay for a COVID vaccine.

Peer-to-Peer Payment Scams

Apps like CashApp, Venmo, and Paypal, which let you transfer money directly to a friend, have led to a number of frauds.

The scam: A fraudster sends you hundreds of dollars, then sends a follow-up message requesting the money back, saying it was an accident. The victim feels bad so they send the money back, however, the original transfer was made with a stolen debit card. Those funds will eventually be removed from your account and you’re out a few hundred dollars.

How to protect yourself: Don’t accept random money requests or disable incoming requests altogether on your app. You can always enable it when someone you trust needs to send you cash. If someone claims they made an accidental deposit, report the incident to the app’s support team to resolve the dispute.

Account Hacks via Text

The scam: Scammers will send text messages alleging something is seriously wrong with one of your accounts. It could be your Amazon account, internet account, bank, or credit card. Their goal is to get you to click on the link provided in the text and have you give up sensitive information.

How to protect yourself:  Whatever account has allegedly been compromised, call or email the company’s support team to find out what the issue is. Don’t ever click on links in unsolicited texts or emails.

Telemarketing Fraud

Approximately $40 billion is lost to telemarketing fraud each year and more than 55% of the victims are people over the age of 50.

The scam: 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.

How to protect yourself: 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.

Celebrity Imposters

Celebrities like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian caught headlines during the pandemic with social media money giveaways. Fans posted their cash-transfer app identifier for a chance to win free money. Fraudsters jumped on this right away and started sending fake giveaways impersonating celebrities.

The scam: Scammers send you a message via social media claiming you’ve won a contest. All you need to do is verify your account details and send a small deposit up front that will be refunded.

How to protect yourself: If you entered a contest and won, you won’t ever be asked to send money first. Like before, the easiest way to protect yourself is to block incoming money requests to your cash-transfer app.

Credit Report Scam

This scam targets job seekers and apartment hunters. You’ll see it on Craigslist and other online job boards.

The scam: Con 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.

How to protect yourself: This is just another way for fraudsters to gain personal information for later use. Most employers will not ask you to pay for a credit report to apply for a job. And if it seems legit, always double-check with the BBB and Glassdoor to find out if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Keep these 10 scams in mind as you navigate these uncertain times and you’ll keep your wallet and health safe.

To a Richer Life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team 

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