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Scammers Are Getting Smarter in 2021: 5 Ways to Spot Them Online, Over the Phone and In Person

Scammers: according to the CFA, they’ve recently gotten bolder in their extortion methods, impersonating law enforcement on the phone and even threatening people on the other line.1 

Scamming has been exacerbated even further by the pandemic, with scammers taking advantage of citizens in an already anxiety-inducing climate. Be aware of these five red flags when getting on the phone, checking your email or using social media. This can help you avoid even getting trapped in a conversation with a scammer in the first place. 

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, in order to extrapolate information from you. If you receive a strange call, text or email with an unfamiliar hyperlink, this is a telltale sign that you’re being scammed.2 

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, scammers are preying on people’s fear. In addition to making a brazen identity claim, a scammer will often state that they need information or money immediately or something terrible will happen. Be aware of this behavior instead of allowing it to induce stress. 

If you’re already in contact with them and start displaying doubts, a scammer may even get aggressive about needing your information. This is another sign that you’re dealing with a scam. A genuine source will never require you to reveal personal information like this.3

Red Flag #3: You Must Wire Money

Once a scammer receives money from you, their goal is to disappear with it, becoming extremely hard to track. If an entity is asking you to send money via a wire transfer or reload pack, this is likely a scam - because these payment methods are very hard to track.3

Moreover, if someone is requiring you to send money quickly in an unorthodox fashion, they are likely a scammer. 

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 in their name. Nonetheless, the frightening and urgent language of the call could get them stuck in an uncomfortable conversation with someone who is (in all likelihood) a scammer. 

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 as a way to draw you in. Even if a scammer’s website seems extremely official or a scammer approaches you in person looking very professional, that is often a front to gain trust. 

This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed, and it can happen in almost any area of business. Always stay wary of untrustworthy sources, and if you seem to be getting too good of a deal on insurance or even something as big as an apartmental rental or car, do more research on the identity of the source. 

It’s much easier to get scammed then one 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. Getting scammed is a taxing and costly ordeal that nobody deserves to go through. 

  1. https://consumerfed.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Top-Consumer-Complaints-Report-7-27-20.pdf
  2. https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/current-covid-19-coronavirus-scams
  3. https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Publications/howtospotascam.asp

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