If you’ve ever been the victim of a scam, you know how terrible it feels. In addition to the anger over being a victim of such a crime in the first place, you may also feel embarrassment that you were naïve enough to let yourself be taken advantage of in that way.
It may be small consolation to know that scammers have become more and more sophisticated, making it very difficult to separate legitimate offers from scams. But there are ways you can fight back, even against the smartest of scammers:
Online & Email Scams
Scammers love the anonymity of the internet. Email, especially, has made it quite convenient for scammers to widely broadcast offers for things like millions of dollars from Nigerian princes or winnings from a probably fake sweepstakes. All you have to do is give them your banking information or Social Security Number to obtain your money.
Hopefully, you know better than to fall for such claims. Emails like these are infamous these days and, for that, clumsy when it comes to real trickery.
But then, there are also more sophisticated approaches to get your financial information. You may get communications that look like they’re coming from your bank, your boss, or the IRS. On the surface, they could look totally legitimate. However, links in these emails could actually lead to spoofed websites designed to steal your log-in information, or they may load malware onto your computer.
To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites. Verify the sender’s email. And note the tone and grammar of the email itself for errors. If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly to verify the email’s legitimacy.
Phone & Text Scams
Say you get a call or text from a phone number that looks familiar. But, with no name coming up on the caller ID, you just don’t know for sure. It could be someone you know, or perhaps a company with which you do business.
On the other hand, it could be a scammer. These days, phone scammers have the ability to spoof phone numbers. They could be calling from across the country—or even outside the US—but look like they’re calling locally.
These calls or texts are made to achieve much the same thing as a fake email. Scammers want money, or information that can eventually lead them to money. This means they will try to get valuable personal or business information from you directly. Or they could trick you into giving them access to your device or network. Then they can get the information they want without further help from you.
If you are unsure, do not answer a call or click on a link in a text right away. Try and verify the legitimacy of an unknown phone number. You can look it up with a general online search or a reverse phone lookup. Such a tool can quickly reveal the owner or entity that’s actually behind the phone number.
It if turns out that the caller or texter is someone you recognize, that’s great! Perhaps it’s just a wrong number. Or you may find the number flagged as a likely scam. In that case, you can report the number to the FCC and/or phone scam sites.
The in-person scam isn’t as common as online or phone scams. But they do still happen. In-person scammers are confident. They set out to dazzle and pressure you with fast, persuasive talk. They may use things like natural disasters, sad children, or homeless animals to play off your emotions and take your money.
Before you hand over any cash or credit card info, make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity. There are a number of charity watchdog sites online. Just look up the charity name to find out if it’s real. And to make sure that a person is a real representative of that charity, you can contact the organization directly to confirm that the person in front of you really works for them.
Whether you have been the victim of a scam in the past, or you hope to never ever be one, you can take back your sense of control. These tips and advice should help you to protect yourself moving forward.