Over the years, millions of people in the U.S. have been victims of financial scams and identity theft. The number continues to grow due to data hacks and security breaches at major retailers, banks, and even government agencies. Learning about current scams and what techniques scammers use can help you protect yourself and your money.
Common Scams You Should Know About
- A family member needs you to wire money for an emergency. This type of scam can come via email or a phone call. Often the scammer claims to be a relative travelling outside the country who has been in an accident or arrested.
- Lottery or sweepstakes scams. The scammer sends you mail, often with a bogus check, email, or calls saying you've won a prize and you need to send money to cover the taxes on your winnings.
- Fake charities. The scammer asks you to donate to a charity over the phone or via email. Often, they'll talk about a natural disaster or crisis that's been in the news lately. Don't make any donations without checking out the charity first through an independent source like Charity Navigator or the American Institute of Philanthropy.
- Check scams. A stranger asks you to cash a large check for them and says you can keep part of the money. The check will bounce and you will have lost whatever money you gave the scammer, and you will have to pay bounced check fees.
- Phishing and spoofing. You receive an email or a call asking for passwords, Social Security numbers, or bank or credit card numbers. The scammer can use this information for identity fraud and open new accounts in your name or take money out of your existing accounts. Spoofing is when a scammer sets up a website using a web address that contains common misspellings of real sites. The fake sites look similar, but when you input your user name, password, or other sensitive information, the scammer steals it.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
It's smart to be skeptical about calls, emails, and mail solicitations you receive.
- Don't share financial information like account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers.
- Create strong passwords and have a different password for every website.
- Only donate to charities you know and trust.
- Keep your personal and financial information safe by shredding documents before throwing them out and password protecting your phone and other mobile devices.
- Make sure any websites you use to shop or bank use encryption. You should see a lock symbol in the address bar before the web address.
By taking these precautions, you can lower your risk of falling victim to fraud.