Times are tough, and unfortunately, scammers aren’t making it any easier. While bad actors once targeted the elderly, who they assumed would be less tech-savvy, they’ve since widened their net. Perhaps it has something to do with a down economy. In either case, cybersecurity is more important than ever.
Sometimes, online or SMS scams can take the form of urgent messages, making you think that if you don’t act fast, there will be trouble ahead. Other times, the message will be portrayed as an opportunity of a lifetime. Generally, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
However, cybercriminals have become quite crafty, making it difficult to tell the difference between an inquiry that’s genuine and one that’s been cooked up. To beat them, it helps to know what to look for. In this article, we’ll share how to avoid the latest scams and protect your finances, especially during times of economic turmoil.
Types of Scams to Avoid
Before we get into the steps you can take to go on offense, let’s take a look at the lengths these criminals will go to. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of scam types out there. Here are a few of the most common ones to watch out for:
Online Dating Scams: Dating apps have managed to become wildly popular, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Unfortunately, these sites can also be the target of scammers who are looking to take advantage of people looking for love. Their strategy usually involves creating fake online dating profiles and then attempting to bilk unsuspecting dating site members out of money. One such crime ring in Ohio managed to launder close to $12 million by establishing trust with people and then asking them to send money to a certain account.
Amazon Scam Text: These cybercriminals know no limits and also know how to harness SMS as a text message on their mobile phone. If you receive a message on your mobile phone saying that your Amazon account is locked or there’s some other issue with it, don’t fall for it. They are hoping you’ll disclose some personal details.
There are some warning signals about the Amazon scam. First, these messages usually contain typos. Next, there’s probably a link they want you to click on. Avoid clicking on the link at all costs. Wherever the link takes you isn’t good, and it could even download malware onto your device. These scammers might also call you claiming someone’s using your account to go on a shopping spree. If you’re unsure, use the customer service contact information on the Amazon site to reach out to a representative.
Crypto Scams: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have soared in popularity in recent years. Unfortunately, so too have the number of scams associated with them. Beware of pump-and-dump schemes, which also take place in the stock market. It’s where the scammer shows you evidence of a coin’s rising asset price, guaranteeing higher-than-average returns, often in the double or triple-digit range, with the added promise of little-to-no risk. They are often marketed on social media platforms or even dating sites. This type of investment should be met with skepticism. After driving up the price of the obscure asset, they then proceed to sell their holdings only to leave unwitting investors holding the bag.
To avoid scams and protect your finances, make it a habit to change your online passwords. Plan to do this across your accounts, including social media, finance apps, bank accounts, and more. A good rule of thumb is to change your passwords every three months.
Many sites will require you to come up with savvy combinations of upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and/or numbers. Don’t balk at this as it’s a good way to defend your accounts against bad actors. If you’re using a word like Dog in your password, replace the “o” with the number zero. Keep a hand-written password book near your computer so you won’t forget how to access your accounts!
When it comes to emails, you can’t be too careful these days. It’s one of the most common ways that fraudsters seek to compromise your online experience. Take note of the subject and sender of the email before you open it. Be wary of clicking on any links, particularly if it’s someone claiming you came into millions of dollars. And if you happen to open any emails requesting funds or personal information, be sure and report it as “spam.”
Banks are just as concerned about scams and frauds as you are. Possibly even more so. Chances are they might notice something is amiss even before you do. However, that doesn’t mean you should go on cruise control.
Experts recommend checking your bank accounts on a daily basis to ensure that there’s no suspicious activity going on. While banks are aggressive about unusual charges, they could miss something you wouldn’t. Think of yourself as an added layer of security over your checking and savings accounts.
Perhaps the best gauge against scams targeting your finances is your own instinct. If some online activity, SMS message, or phone call seems off, chances are it is. Go with your gut. According to Barclays, nearly three-quarters of people pay no attention to their own gut feelings in money situations. And this could come back to haunt them. The signs might include:
- A tight chest
- Headache or stomach pains
- Brain fog
The British bank advises consumers to listen to their gut, which is actually in constant communication with their brain. If you can learn to recognize that feeling, you could save yourself a lot of trouble online and in your everyday life.
While it’s unfortunate that you have to be on the lookout for scams to protect your finances during economic turmoil, it’s what the world has come to. Fortunately, consumers have gotten well-versed in spotting suspicious activity online and sharing their experiences with others. When it comes to your identity and your finances, it’s better to err on the side of caution. So when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask someone’s opinion. Two scam radars are better than one.