Every day mischievous con artists find unique ways to swindle good people out of their hard-earned money. Here are the top 10 trending scams throughout the country and how to avoid falling into their traps.
You receive a text message that looks like an alert from your bank and provides a link to a website. The URL may even include the name of your bank. Once you click the link, you’re prompted to input account information, including your username, password, etc.
How to avoid it: Don’t click any links from messages or emails that you were not expecting. Watch out for lookalike links, just because the URL contains the name of the company, doesn’t mean that it is real. When in doubt, call your bank or provider directly to confirm the legitimacy of the message.
STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS SCAM
You hear of a company that offers student loan relief for a *small* fee.
Warning signs and how to avoid it: Federal loan assistance is always available for free through the U.S. Department of Education. If you encounter a company telling you that they can consolidate your student loans for an upfront fee, do yourself a favor and call the federal government’s Loan Consolidation Information Center at (800) 557-7392.
ITUNES/AMAZON CARD SCAM
An individual claims to belong to a reputable company (Amazon, Facebook, Apple) and wants you to buy something with a gift card, but you don’t check out with the gift card, you provide the individual with the gift card number.
How to avoid it: Know what you can and cannot buy (you can’t buy cars on Amazon). When in doubt, contact Customer Service for support. If an offer feels too good to be true, it probably is!
When shopping for used cars, you email the seller for more information and to view the car. The seller responds stating that the car is located in another area, and that they are in the military and will have the car shipped to you. Once you pay the price of the car, they graciously offer to pay the shipping cost.
How to avoid it: Beware of anyone who requires a wire transfer and a promise of free shipping. Best practice is to purchase used cars from someone local so that you can test drive the car before you fork over the money. Use common sense, if it doesn’t seem right, and they are claiming to be military personnel, use your resources available to verify they are who they say they are.
SPEEDING TICKET SCAM
You are notified that you were caught speeding. The notification may even list a time and place where you, in fact, were speeding. The notification provides a link to pay your fine to.
How to avoid it: As always, best practice is to call and confirm with the real agency. Beware of clicking links in these emails as they may download malware to your computer.
When you connect to Free Wi-Fi from an unknown source, you are vulnerable to a nearly undetectable attack, in which the scammer is able to monitor the information you send through the internet. This could potentially lead to you giving the scammer usernames, passwords, banking information, personal information, etc. The person behind the attack could also plant malware into your system (phone, laptop) and use it to steal files and data.
How to avoid it: Stay away from connecting to unknown Wi-Fi servers. Note: the scammer can rename the Wi-Fi to match even a legitimate Wi-Fi server.
DATING SITE SCAM
No matter the dating website, there are scammers lying in wait. There are numerous cases where people plan on meeting their love interest, but this person needs you to send them an insane amount of money. Once they receive the cash, they are never heard from again.
How to avoid it: Pay attention! Take a look at the picture they’re using and use a facial recognition search engine. Search the person online and see if the internet can verify that this person is real. If they ask you about money, this is a red flag! Use common sense and proceed with caution.
A form of investment (illegal in the U.S. and elsewhere) in which each paying participant recruits two further participants, with returns being given to early participants using money contributed by later ones.
How to avoid it: Look out for promises of high returns in a short period of time. Examine whether a genuine product or service is being sold. Ensure the emphasis isn’t on recruiting. Know where and how your money will be invested. Keep track of how the investment is doing. Determine if the investment seems too good to be true. Don’t invest when you are told there is little or no risk. Be cautious when you are told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Analyze the prospectus. Ask about the exit strategy before you invest. Make small investments.
ROGUE SECURITY SOFTWARE
Rogue security software is a form of malicious software and internet fraud that misleads users into believing there is a virus on their computer. It manipulates them into paying money for a fake malware removal tool that actually introduces malware to the computer.
How to avoid it: It’s important to keep your operating system and security software up to date. Only install software from trusted sources.
Become familiar with the way the legitimate anti-virus software on your computer looks and behaves. If you know what a real warning message looks like, it should be easier to spot a phony.
USE EMV (CHIP) CARDS TO PREVENT THEFT
EMV cards are embedded with a microprocessor chip containing the account information; the chip is “read” when the card is dipped into the terminal, tapped against a payment terminal, or waved within an inch or so from it.
How it works: If a store or restaurant has its payment information hacked, that information cannot be used to make additional purchases or create new credit and debit cards. With EMV chip cards, each transaction is approved using a unique authentication code, and that code can’t be used again. Further, the microprocessor chips are virtually impossible to duplicate.
For additional concerns or questions about consumer affairs, please visit the legal office during legal assistance hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10 a.m.