In 2015, there were 13.1 million victims of fraud in the U.S. and a total fraud amount of $15 billion1. Furthermore, over the past six years, fraudsters have stolen a shocking $112 billion from U.S. consumers1. These numbers prove that when it comes to protecting your money, you can never be too careful.
Fraud is an ongoing threat but you can help learn to safeguard your assets through education and awareness. To help you stay one step ahead, here are some tips on how to avoid common fraud schemes:
Phishing is an online scam where criminals send emails that appear to be from a legitimate source. For example, if they know what bank or credit card company you use, cyber thieves can create emails that look very similar to an official correspondence. The goal of a scam like this can be to request and obtain sensitive personal information to access your existing accounts or open new accounts in your name.
To keep your email safe from phishing attacks, consider the following precautions:
- Don’t send personal or financial information via email
- Don’t open or download a file that you don’t fully trust
- Use security software on all of devices (computers, tablets, etc.)
- Review bank statements and credit card transactions at least once a month
Telemarketing fraud consists of various scams where a criminal contacts potential victims over the phone and ultimately retrieve a wrongful financial gain from the victim. Whether it’s a fake prize notification or phony investment opportunity, these frauds are often strategic and use phone scripts like a legitimate business. Criminals often target senior citizens who may be more vulnerable to these deceptions and potentially have more money in their savings account3.
To help protect yourself against potential telemarketing fraud, consider the following precautions:
- Don’t provide any personal or banking information over the phone
- Ask detailed questions about the company
- Ask for all information in writing
- Request a name and callback number
Charity and fundraising fraud can operate as a large scale or local operation. Preying on the kindness and goodwill of others, scam artists set up fake organizations to solicit money for certain causes. This type of fraud may also be more prevalent after a natural disaster or an emotional current event2.
If you want to avoid charity fraud, consider the following precautions:
- Research the charity online to verify its existence and history
- Call the charity and speak with a representative
- Request hard copy materials describing the charity and how donations are utilized
- Don’t wire money or send cash - send funds through a secure method4
There are nearly a dozen types of investment fraud. From false information to bogus opportunities, fraudsters use a variety of tactics to entice and eventually betray their victims. In addition to fast pitches and big promises, criminals may sometimes go as far as creating
elaborate investment or trading websites with links to reputable sources to legitimize their fraudulent operation5.
Before you make your next investment, consider the following precautions:
- Beware of high or unusual return promises
- Choose investments that can be bought and sold through a credible firm or brokerage
- Make your checks out to a credible firm or brokerage - not an individual
- Seek the consultation of a financial advisor if you feel unsure
Healthcare fraud doesn’t only affect the victim, it costs the country tens of billions of dollars each year6. In this scam, criminals typically pose as medical providers to request and steal personal information. This type of scam can be especially dangerous because it could alter the medical records of the victim7.
To help prevent healthcare fraud for you or a loved one, consider the following precautions:
- Don’t share Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security numbers outside of your medical network
- Store your insurance cards and benefit information in a safe place
- Keep a record of all doctor visits, prescriptions and procedures
- Double check your invoices for unknown charges
Stay on alert
In order to stay one step ahead of modern day fraudsters, it pays to be alert. If you feel uneasy or notice something out of place, trust your intuition and take the necessary steps to protect your personal information.
If you believe you’ve become a victim of fraudulent activity, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here: ftc.gov/complaint.