Scammers. According to the Consumer Federation of America, they’ve recently gotten bolder in their extortion methods — everything from impersonating law enforcement on the phone to making threats for noncompliance.
The pandemic has increased the incidence of scams, with swindlers taking advantage of citizens in an already stressful climate. Be aware of these five red flags when getting on the phone, checking your email, or using social media. Knowing what to look for helps you avoid getting trapped in a bad situation.
Red Flag #1: They Make an Identity Claim
Many scammers are now utilizing strategies where they claim to be trustworthy sources, such as a government agency or even your bank, to glean information from you. If you receive a strange call, text, or email with an unfamiliar hyperlink, be suspicious. These are telltale signs that you’re being scammed.
Never click on mysterious hyperlinks or respond to uncertified messages asking for your personal information, especially if it involves money. For instance, many scammers are claiming to be government agencies providing an update on COVID-19 economic support. Do not blindly trust these claims.
Red Flag #2: They Need Your Personal Information Immediately
A scammer’s goal is to get your personal information as quickly as possible. Especially due to the pandemic, they are preying on people’s fear. In addition to making a false identity claim, they will often state that information or money are needed immediately or something terrible will happen.
If you’re already in contact with a scammer and they sense your doubt, they may even get aggressive about needing your information. A genuine source will never require you to reveal personal information using this tactic.
Red Flag #3: You Must Wire Money
Once a scammer receives money from you, they usually disappear and become difficult to track. If an entity asks you to send money via a wire transfer, reload pack, or some other unorthodox fashion, it is likely a scam. Be aware that these payment methods are very hard to track should you send money.
Red Flag #4: It Doesn’t Apply
This is one of the more obvious strategies. For instance, a scammer may contact a teenager about car insurance when the teenager doesn’t even own a car. The frightening and urgent language of the call could get the teen stuck in an uncomfortable conversation with someone who is, in all likelihood, a fraud.
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’s Too Good to Be True
Unfortunately, getting a really good deal on something is often a sign that it may be a scam. A scammer will promise you something that seems far too good to be true to draw you in. Even if a website appears official, or you are approached by a professional-looking person, it may be a front to gain trust.
This is one of the easiest ways to get conned, and it can happen in almost any area of business. Always stay wary of unknown or unfamiliar sources. If you seem to be getting too good a deal on something (even insurance or something as big as an apartment rental or car), do more research on the source's identity.
It’s much easier to get scammed than you would think. Make sure that you’re aware of the telltale signs of a scam and avoid allowing your fear to get the best of you in these situations.
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