Fraud is a deceitful act where scammers unfairly benefit at the expense of others. It has the potential to cause a significant amount of harm on innocent individuals and their livelihoods. In a world that’s sadly filled with online scams, identity theft, and fraud, it’s extremely critical to understand fraud and recognize common scams to protect your financial and personal information.
At GOLD, we prioritize your financial security, and we’re here to empower you with the knowledge needed to avoid falling victim to scams. Follow along on the blog as we explore recent scams that have affected our members and unveil the most common types of scams to ensure your safety.
Never Share Personal or Bank Account Information
I’d like to start this blog off by sharing one of the most critical pieces of advice I could ever give you. Never share your online banking information or bank account details with anyone. If someone is requesting your personal, confidential information via phone call or email, even if they claim to be a trustworthy person you know or are from a reputable company you do business with (your credit union or bank are perfect examples), it’s more than likely to be a scam. Your financial institution will never ask you for this information through unsolicited phone calls or emails. For an extra layer of assurance, I would strongly encourage you to contact the individual or company directly to verify the legitimacy of any requests you may receive.
Beware of Email Hyperlinks and Attachments
Let’s analyze one of my above points a bit more: email communication. In today’s digital world, email is an extremely common avenue for scams. Scammers often send emails to unsuspecting individuals, and they may include hyperlinks or attachments that they want you to click on. Whatever you do, please do not click on them. Here’s what to remember:
Proceed with Caution: If you receive an email from someone that you weren’t expecting to hear from, especially if the message is conveying a sense of urgency and requesting confidential information, stay cautious.
Hover over Links; Don’t Click on Them: Instead of clicking on links or attachments, hover your mouse over them. This action will display the actual website address to which the link leads. Verify that it matches the official website of the organization.
Avoid Opening Attachments: Do not open emails with attachments that are from unknown senders. Email attachments could contain malware that can compromise your device or steal your personal information.
These are just a few simple ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of phishing scams. Always remember that it’s better to err on the side of caution and trust your instincts.
Common Scams to Recognize and Avoid
Fraudsters are sophisticated and always coming up with new ways to trick individuals into sharing their information. They often employ emotionally manipulative tactics to prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities; they pull on your heartstrings and make up stories, impersonate respected companies, and pretend to be family members or friends in order to gain your trust and deceive you.
Let’s dive into the most common fraudulent scams you should be aware of to better protect yourself and your hard-earned money:
Have you ever received an enticing email or phone call informing you that you've just won a huge lottery or sweepstakes prize for something you didn’t enter? Lottery/sweepstakes scams are incredibly common, but there’s always a catch. After the celebrations end, fraudsters request that you give them your personal information and inform you there will be additional expenses, like upfront fees and taxes, in exchange for your supposed winnings. Stop right there and do not entertain the scammer any longer. Legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes do not require you to pay fees or share personal and financial information.
Be cautious, verify the legitimacy of the offer and who/where it’s coming from, and never send money or sensitive information to claim your “prize.” Remember, if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Trust your instincts and steer clear of deceptive schemes like this.
Gift Card Scams
Gift card scams prey on individuals’ goodwill and trust. In some instances, scammers pose as a friend or family member in trouble. They fake an emergency and ask you to purchase gift cards for them, but it’s all one big ploy to get your money. Another common tactic is receiving unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls that promise gift cards in exchange for your personal information. Never purchase gift cards or share their codes and your private information with individuals or organizations.
Scammers take advantage of generosity and empathy by pretending to represent charitable groups or organizations. They might call or send emails and request you to donate to a worthy cause. With charity scams, fraudsters use high-pressure tactics and insist that you donate immediately. Genuine charitable organizations will never rush you or pressure you into donating; they understand the importance of voluntary contributions and should always respect your decision-making process. Additionally, they should be transparent and willing to provide detailed information about their mission, goals, and how your donation will be used.
When an individual is hesitant in providing you with this information or quickly changes the subject, it’s a red flag. To be safe and protect yourself, take time to research the charity, reach out to them directly, or only use established platforms to make donations.
Grandparent scams are heart-wrenching and malicious. Scammers frequently target elderly, vulnerable individuals and impersonate a grandchild in distress who’s seeking urgent financial assistance for various made-up emergencies, like bail, medical bills, car accidents, and legal trouble. Scammers exploit victims’ emotional connections and desires to help their loved ones to trick them into sending money without verifying the authenticity of the situation.
If you ever receive a call like this, the first step is to stay calm. After that, stop and carefully analyze the situation. Pay close attention to how they address you (did they use the name you’re commonly called like Pop-Pop, Pop, Grandpa, Gramps, etc.?) and the phone number they called from. You can even take it a step further to ask them to provide personal details or inform them that you need time to confirm their identity by reaching out to their parents or guardian. This approach can help you make a more informed decision to protect yourself from becoming a victim of this common scam.
Romance scams target individuals looking for love and companionship. They create fake online identities, share heartwarming stories, build emotional connections, and, finally, ask for financial help when they feel that they’ve won over your trust and affection. That’s not amore.
Be wary when engaging with people you meet online, especially if they start pressuring you for money and continuously avoid meeting you in person. Remember to abide by the old adage, “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” Staying vigilant can prevent potential heartache and financial loss.
Third-Party Loan Application Scams
Applying for a loan through a third party? It’s crucial that you exercise extreme caution and confirm that the lender is legitimate to protect your financial security. When dealing with third parties, follow these simple precautions:
Research the Lender: Take time to research the lender to make sure they’re the real deal. Check their website and look for “https” and a padlock icon in the top left of the URL. Look at their ratings and read reviews online to see if there’s a history of complaints and concerns.
Don’t Share Online Banking Credentials: Never share your online banking usernames or passwords. Always remember that legitimate lenders, like GOLD, will never ask you for this information. These should always be kept private and secure.
Read the Terms and Conditions: Before agreeing to anything, read and understand the terms and conditions to ensure you’re aware of interest rates, repayment terms, and hidden fees. Keep in mind that legitimate lenders are transparent and will provide you with these details.
If you ever encounter suspicious activity or have questions or concerns about a third-party lender, please don't hesitate to reach out to GOLD for assistance. Your financial well-being is our priority, and we're here to help you keep your money safe.
Check Deposit Scams
While receiving an unexpected check might seem like a pleasant surprise, it can often be part of a deceptive scheme. It’s crucial to exercise extreme caution and refrain from cashing it at all costs. The check in question could have serious implications; it may turn out to be fraudulent or stolen, which could put you at risk of financial losses and potential legal consequences.
Additionally, another common check deposit scam involves giving a third party access to your online banking account because they claim they want to “help” you deposit a check on their behalf. Next thing you know, they’ve got your online banking credentials, which could put your account at risk of misuse, theft, and other fraudulent activities.
Check deposit scams pose significant financial and security risks, so it’s imperative that you verify the legitimacy of these types of requests to protect yourself and your wallet.
The next time you suspect you’re being targeted, pause for a moment and consider the scams we’ve covered today. Remember, stay calm, stay informed, stay vigilant, and rest assured that we’re here to protect you and your finances.
If you believe you’re a victim of fraud or identity theft, please alert us at 484-223-4200 and report it to your local authorities immediately.