The word “scam” refers to a deceptive, dishonest, or illegal plan that’s intended to cheat someone out of something (generally money).
Unfortunately, scams are becoming more and more common. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself about what a scam looks like and how to avoid it. The more you know, the better of a chance there is that you’ll be able to avoid losing your money in a scam.
Here’s what you need to know about scams and how to protect yourself.
Why Scam Frequencies Have Increased
Data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that in 2021, consumers lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud. This is an increase of over 70% from 2020. From imposter scams to online shopping scams to business opportunities, the total number of fraud reports filed with the FTC reached 2.8 million by the end of the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of online shopping that opens us up to easy scams. Some scams are robocalls that specifically target older Americans and their health concerns. Others use fake delivery messages to prey on consumers. Whatever the case, more and more people are finding themselves tricked or conned out of their money.
If you’re like many Americans, you’re fascinated with scams — maybe without even realizing it. Many of the most popular shows on Netflix center around scams, like The Tinder Swindler or Inventing Anna. Today, the constant access to our phones and social media accounts, combined with the massive shift to conducting transactions online makes it easier than ever for people to obtain and use our personal information. This is why it’s so essential to be educated on common signs of a scam.
Signs of a Scam
Scams often have the same telltale signs. Here are a few indications that someone might be trying to scam you:
- They claim to be from the government and ask you to pay money.
- They ask you to pay money or taxes upfront to receive a prize or gift.
- They ask you to wire them money; send money by courier; pay via cryptocurrency; or to put money on a prepaid card or gift card.
- They ask for access to your credit cards, bank accounts, or investment accounts.
One other common sign of a scammer is someone pressuring you to make a snap decision without thinking about it. Don’t fall into this trap. Slow down and do your own research on the offer. Type the company or product name into Google with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam” and see what comes up.
It’s also helpful to consult with somebody you trust. If something about the offer doesn’t seem right, you can always hang up or walk away.
How to Protect Yourself From Scams
Take steps to protect yourself from scams sooner rather than later. Here are a few things you can do:
- Only answer the phone if you recognize the number.
- Block unwanted calls and filter unwanted text messages.
- Never give out your banking or Social Security information over the phone.
- Never click on suspicious links that you receive in an email or text.
- Never pay someone who wants you to pay via gift card, cryptocurrency, or a wire transfer.
- Keep your mobile devices and Wi-Fi networks secure using strong passwords and security software. Don’t use public computers or Wi-Fi networks for anything involving personal information.
If you’re dating online as a senior, be aware that scammers do sometimes pop up on senior adult dating sites, trying to get your money. Adults aged 70+ lost an average of $9,475.80 to these “sweetheart scams” in 2020.
Protect yourself when online dating by keeping your personal information private (including details such as your financial status or where you live). If you do decide to meet up with someone, research the person on Google and ask them to video chat first. Then meet in a busy public area and double check your surroundings.
What If I was Scammed?
If you’ve already been the victim of a scam, you may be wondering if you can get your money back. The answer to this question depends on factors like what happened and how you lost your money or information.
One thing you can do is file a scam report. Submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. After you file your report, they will give you steps to take that could help as you try to get your money back or stop a charge. The FTC advises that the quicker you act, the better your chance of getting your money back.
You can also contact your local police or sheriff’s office or your state attorney general’s office to report the scam. Visit the National Association of Attorneys General for the contact information of each state attorney general.
Finally, you should let your bank and other financial institutions know that you may have been scammed. Change your passwords at once, and block the scammer on all forms of communication.
Find more information on what to do if you’ve been scammed by following this advice from the Federal Trade Commission.
Keep Valuable Information Safe
Protect your vulnerable information with the help of a Bankers Life agent. Our agents are experienced in guiding people in helpful ways to keep their finances safe. Contact us today!