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How to Protect Yourself from Scams

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Anywhere that money can be made, you can be sure that a scam isn’t far behind. Some of these scams are easy to identify, while others are more sophisticated.

It may be scary to think about. But often all it takes is a little common sense—and the help of some verification tools—to keep yourself from becoming a victim of a scam. The following is an overview of scams by delivery method, as well as the avenues you can take to fend them off:

Online & Email Scams

The anonymity of the internet has made it a haven for scammers. In particular, email has made it even more convenient for scammers to broadcast offers for millions of dollars from African princes or sweepstakes winnings. All you have to do is give them your banking information or Social Security Number. You know better, though.

Next to these clumsier efforts to get your financial information, there are more subtle approaches. You may get supposed communications from your bank, your boss, or the government, with links that actually lead to spoofed websites or that load malware onto your computer.

To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites. Verify the sender’s email. And note the tone and grammar of the email itself for errors. If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly to verify the legitimacy of the email.

Phone & Text Scams

We’ve all gotten them: calls or texts from phone numbers that look familiar, but we don’t know for sure. Yes, it could be someone you know, or from a company with which you do business. On the other hand, it could be a scammer. These days, scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers. That way, they could be calling from across the country but look like they’re calling locally.

These calls or texts are out to achieve much the same things as a fake email. Scammers want money or information that can get them money. This means they will try to get valuable personal or business information from you directly. Or they have you give them access to your device or network, where they can get the information or money they want themselves.

If you are unsure, do not answer a call or respond to a text right away. To try and verify the legitimacy of an unknown phone number, you can look it up with a reverse phone lookup. Such a tool can reveal the owner or entity that’s actually behind the phone number. It if turns out that the caller or texter is someone you recognize, great! Otherwise, you can report the number to the FCC or phone scam sites as a likely scam.

In-Person Scams

The in-person con may not be as common as electronic scams these days. But they do still happen. In-person scammers are confident, and they set out to confuse you and pressure you with fast, persuasive talk. They may use natural disasters, sad children, or homeless animals to play off your emotions and take your money.

Before you hand over any cash or credit card info, make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity and, especially, that the person is a real representative of a charity. For the former, there are a number of charity watchdog sites online; just look up the charity name to find out if it’s real and if it’s effective in its mission. For the latter, you can contact the charity directly to confirm that the person in front of you really works for them.

It may be disappointing to know that scammers are everywhere. But it doesn’t have to scare you. By taking a little time to check things out before responding, you can keep your information and your finances safe from harm.

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