According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scams have worsened over the years. The FTC recently reported that American consumers lost $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022. This loss is a massive 30% rise from 2021, meaning citizens should exercise more caution to avoid scammers.
It has become a common belief that scams typically target the older generations, which studies seemingly support when they report how adults aged 70-79 lose more money on average. However, these reports also revealed that young adults between 20-29 experienced fraud more frequently. This realization is why everyone should stay alert.
Today, scams often take place in the digital world. Many people encounter them on social media, dating apps, online marketplaces, even digital payment platforms. Transferring cash has become effortless thanks to platforms like Venmo or Cashapp. However, this also means it became easier for thieves to commit fraudulent transactions.
Here are examples of scams taking place in the digital world:
Robocalls are a scam nearly every phone user has encountered—a pre-recorded message plays, usually with an “urgent” message. However, listening long enough ends with a request for the recipient to buy something or send money. These scams frequently impersonate authorities. For example, they may impersonate the IRS, FBI, or sheriff departments and claim an intent to apprehend the listener. Regardless of the impersonation, the caller requests money and warns they will arrest the recipient if they do not receive it.
Another common tactic is impersonating a loved one and requesting money to help with an emergency. The FTC warns everyone to act carefully when receiving an unexpected call that demands help immediately by sending money. You should regard this scenario with suspicion and contact authorities using official lines of communication to investigate the situation. Also, verify the loved one’s identity before wiring anything due to a phone call or text.
The oldest trick in the book involves romance scams, which grew in popularity among scammers due to online dating. These thieves steal pictures online and create fake profiles on social media and dating apps. Once created, they can message targets and build relationships over months or years. At some point, they will ask for money, either one large sum or repeated small requests.
The imposter typically removes the profile when the scam falls apart, leaving the victim without their perceived love or savings. Such scenarios emphasize the importance of confirming a person’s identity before engaging in a long-distance relationship with anyone online. The FTC also stressed that you should not send large sums of money to anyone without genuinely knowing the other person.
Other social media scams include “investment gurus.” You have probably seen testimonials and cryptocurrency experts online bragging about their quick money schemes. Many cases will encourage you to get in touch and send them money to get started. Once again, the FTC warns to never send money to anyone online unless you know the person.
The agency also warned against online quizzes and other “fun games” found on social media. These games probe for personal information like your name, relatives’ names, or birth date. This information may seem insignificant, but the FTC explained that thieves can use this data to piece together your identity and steal it.
Another aspect of social media to tread carefully in is the online marketplace. The FTC encourages buyers to check the seller’s profile and review the platform’s terms and conditions. As a seller, you should review the buyer’s profile and never accept unexpected payments.
People receive unusual emails and texts daily–many of which are scams. The agency encourages you to exercise caution and determine the legitimacy of the situation before taking action. Always review the emails or texts for red flags, such as misspellings, strange senders, or unusual appearances.
These messages typically explain that your bank or utility service has locked your account. They also encourage you to log in immediately through the provided link. However, the FTC warns against following these links. Instead, visit the organization’s official website or call their customer service line to verify the account’s status.
One of the most common scams involves scammers requesting you to make payments through gift cards. This practice is untraceable, so many thieves prefer this scam over other methods. The FTC reminds all consumers that official methods never require paying via gift cards. It explained that gift cards do not qualify for the fraud protections other payment methods offer.
As such, the agency emphasized the importance of disbelieving phone calls claiming to work for the IRS and asking you to pay with gift cards. It also recommends you act cautiously when a social media profile that looks like a friend or family member requests gift cards from you. This profile is likely an imposter.
Another step to protect yourself from scammers is running a background check on yourself. This step informs you whether thieves have fraudulently used your identity–something you would not know until you check. Imposters tarnish their victims’ reputations, impeding their ability to acquire jobs, loans, and other financial needs. Consider a self-check to ensure accurate reports and to dispute fraudulent information.
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