According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these are the 5 most common scams in 2021.
1. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams involve sending fraudulent email or text messages to trick you into revealing personal information to steal passwords and account numbers. These scams may also unleash malware on your devices to gain access.
Phishing schemes include fake invoices or spoofs of well-known companies. An email may tell you there’s a problem with your account, ask you to click on a link to confirm information or say you have been a victim of fraud.
These fraudulent emails and texts are the number one way cyber criminals gain unauthorized access to accounts to commit banking fraud and other scams. The FBI reports victims lost $57 million to phishing schemes in just one year.
Fraud Prevention for Phishing
- Check email carefully before clicking or responding with information.
- If something looks suspicious, contact the company directly to verify it first.
- Use security software on your devices.
- Use two-factor authentication for logins.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown sources.
2. Fake Government Agency Scams
People call or text to say they are from a government agency, such as the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They may ask for your social security number to verify your identity, tell you your benefits are going to be cut off, or threaten you with arrest if you don’t pay an outstanding tax bill. They’ll often ask you to pay with gift cards.
Don’t fall for it. The SSA and IRS will never ask for personal information over the phone and the IRS doesn’t demand immediate payment over the phone either. Any official communication will come by letter.
Fraud Prevention for Fake Government Agency Calls
- Hang up and do not answer any questions.
- If you have concerns, call the government agency to verify the information.
- Anyone that tells you to wire money, send cash, or pay with a gift card is a scammer.
3. Other Phone Scams
There’s no shortage of creativity used by scammers to steal your identity or your money. Here are some of the other common tactics they use.
- Help with unemployment benefits
- Fix your credit score or eliminate your debt
- Asking for a charitable donation
- Forgive your student loans
- Selling extended auto warranties
- Fake lottery winnings
- Free trips and timeshare programs
They may also offer free trials, then sign you up for multiple services that will continue to bill you.
Fraud Prevention for Phone Scams
- Hang up and do not answer any questions.
- Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- If it’s a robocall, don’t press any numbers or respond.
4. Tech Support Scams
Another popular scam that is making its rounds is the tech support scam. You might get a pop-up on your computer, an email, or a phone call that claims that malware or a virus has infected your computer. They may claim to be from Microsoft or Apple and tell you they can repair it for a fee. They will ask for remote access to your computer.
Fraud Prevention for Tech Support Scams
- Always keep your computer’s security software updated.
- If you suspect there is a problem with your computer, contact tech support at a major supplier or a local store you trust.
- Never provide remote access to your computer.
- Don’t give credit card information over the phone.
5. Fake Online Stores
Cybercriminals can easily set up fake online storefronts that sell what appears to be legitimate merchandise. When you provide your credit card or payment information, the scammers will quickly run up your bill by charging you much higher prices for items or making additional purchases with your information.
Fraud Prevention for Fake Online Stores
- If the deal appears too good to be true, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a scam.
- If you don’t know the store, be wary. Check first with the Better Business Bureau or search online for reviews and fraud alerts.
- Never do wire transfers or gift cards that can’t be traced.
What to Do If You Fall Victim to Fraud
If you fall victim to a scammer and they have your information, go to IdentityTheft.gov for the steps to take.
If you’ve wired money or given your credit card information, immediately contact the card issuer or service you used and report it as fraud. You should also put a freeze on your credit by notifying the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). This will prevent credit inquiries from being approved.
If you want to report fraudulent emails, calls, or texts, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Fraudulent texts can be forwarded to SPAM (7726).