Are You Being Scammed? 5 Warning Signs to Watch For

The dreaded phone call, the drama, and the added paperwork: if you’ve ever fallen victim to a scam, you know how significantly they can disrupt your life. Scams often seem distant and unlikely — until they happen to you. To protect yourself and your family, here are five signs to keep a lookout for to help prevent fraud.

1. Online Anonymity

In the age of the internet, you can verify any reputable source through the internet. Before trusting an unknown source, research their website, social media, and Yelp reviews to review their authenticity and reputation. Check the site’s URL to make sure it doesn’t contain odd spellings or other irregularities, as these can be signs of a scam site posing as a legitimate one. You should also use caution when dealing with organizations and individuals without an established online presence.

2. A Reason for Panic: “Make a Decision Now!”

Rushing someone to make a financial commitment may be more than an irresponsible business practice — it could also be a sign of fraud. Finances should never be involved in any transaction until you have had time to confer with trusted resources to make an informed decision. Never allow anyone to pressure you to make an in-the-moment financial decision.

For example, one common scam is an offer to fix an urgent problem they have detected on your computer. The simple, elegant solution is to hang up whenever a caller claims to be from tech support. Do not allow threats of an imminent computer virus to prompt you to give over personal information, control of your computer, or payment to these scammers.

3. An Unexpected Request

If your aunt, friend, or grandson contacts you asking for money, contact them through another means before sending help. It is unusual for someone you know to make an unexpected request for money, especially via email. Find out if they are the true source of the request, which is easy to do by contacting them through other means like a phone call. One way to spot an imposter is by checking whether the email address is from their usual address. If you are still unsure, remember not to wire the money. Requests to send money by wire are often scams, since it is difficult to retrieve wired money in the event of fraud. If you do decide to make a payment in a case like this, request a means of secure transaction, like PayPal.

Another type of unexpected request can come as scammers disguised as the Internal Revenue Service. They may demand immediate payment of owed taxes with threats of serious consequence, often via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Or, they may ask for verification of personal details or link to a phishing website that puts data-collecting viruses on your computer. If you get a phone call from an alleged government agency, hang up. Similarly, ignore emails, social media, and texts. The IRS does not collect taxes through these means. If you are in doubt as to whether you are actually being contacted by the government, look up the contact information of the government agency online to request information, or call 800-366-4484 to report it.

4. Opportunities from Strangers

If a stranger approaches you with a too-good-to-be-true business opportunity, proceed with caution. Ask yourself: why did this person choose me for this opportunity? It is highly unlikely that a trustworthy businessperson will seek a partnership from someone they do not know. Often, non-English-speaking overseas phishing scams solicit business opportunities in this way, so incorrect spelling and grammar may often be a tip-off that this stranger is not trustworthy.

5. A Request for Personal Information

When suspicious figures ask for personal information such as a Social Security Number, credit card number, or mother’s maiden name, feel free to ask them: Why do they need to know this? Can I verify the source? Reputable sources will respect your caution and provide verification.

For example, if you receive an email request for your credit card number, look up the organization’s phone number through another resource, like the internet (not through the email), and ask if you can give information over the phone instead. Here, you have given yourself the power to verify the identity of your contact. Through these simple tips, you can avoid scams and keep your bank account secure.