3 Signs You Might Be Getting Scammed (And What To Do If It Happens)
Phone calls from weird numbers, emails from unknown senders, creepy direct messages on social media — all could potentially be scams. From identity theft and stolen credit card numbers to personal information and lost money, here’s how to know you’re being scammed and what to do after it happens.
1. If it’s not sent via snail mail, it may be a scam.
Did you just get a phone call from an unknown number? Even better, from a number that looks very similar to a family member’s? What about an email address that looks eerily like to yours? You might have even gotten a text from a number that claims to be your bank, but you’ve never received one before. And then there’s the common direct message from a friend with a weird link that makes you nervous to click it.
Con artists will do whatever it takes to get you to answer or click so that they can steal your information. Many will claim to be the IRS, a common bank or even Apple. They may even threaten you with a lawsuit or arrest if you don’t pay them.
The IRS, your bank and even Apple won’t call you, text you or direct message you for information. Depending on the company, you may receive an email, but most likely, you’ll get a letter in the mail. Yup, old school communication is still one of the safest ways to know that your information is needed by a company.
2. If the person wants you to take action right away, it may be a scam.
Some scammers will call repeatedly until you answer. Others may send numerous emails until you respond. If they’re that persistent and want you to take action right away, such as paying for computer protection software or giving them remote access to your computer so they can check on the security settings, be wary. It’s probably a scam if the person is asking you to do something right away.
Reputable and trustworthy companies will give you the benefit of the doubt of responding when you have time. They may even ask you to make an appointment to go through the issue with someone in person or over the phone. They’ll never ask you to pay via wire transfer either.
Whatever you do, take some time to consult others. Do some research, too. If there’s a common scam happening, people will surely be talking about it on social media or online.
3. If it sounds too good to be true, it may be a scam.
Contests, cheap tickets, great deals and more often enticing to many. However, scammers can get a lot of personal information this way (from your bank account info to your social security number and more). If the contest is free, the tickets don’t even compete with prices from other sellers or websites or the deal is a once-in-a-lifetime price, it might be a scam. Also, you should never have to pay to receive a prize, so be mindful of these so-called “terms.”
If you trust the contest or deal, pay with a credit card. Your credit card company will most likely work with you to cancel the charge if anything goes wrong and you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket. If you pay via debit card or checking account, you may never get that money back once the charge has been processed.
Protect yourself from scams before and after they happen.
Scams happen, so don’t blame yourself if you get caught in one. Instead, just take a few extra steps to protect yourself.
- Don’t respond and just delete. If you receive an email, text or direct message that you feel uncomfortable about, delete it. If you get a creepy phone call, don’t answer it.
- Report all potential scams ASAP. Call 1-877-382-4357 or go online to report scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 to report robocalls. You should also contact your state consumer protection office. If it’s an IRS imposter, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or send suspicious emails to [email protected]
- Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. You can do it online or via phone by calling 1-888-382-1222.
- Sign up for two-factor authentication. Whenever possible, add extra security to your accounts online via two-factor authentication. You’ll be asked to not only give a password, but will also need to answer a phone call or receive a text with another one-time passcode that you’ll use to access your accounts.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit and cancel your cards. If you think someone has stolen your credit card info or your personal information, contact one of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit so no one can access your information. Contact your credit card company, too, and ask them to cancel your original card and to reissue you a new one with a new number.
- Be aware of common scams. USA.gov is a great resource to educate yourself about every single kind of scam that could happen to you. If you think you’re being scammed, check the website and then take action to protect yourself.
Scams come in many ways, shapes and forms. It can be difficult to spot them, but trust your gut. If it seems fishy, it probably is. With the right information, you can protect yourself from scams and con artists so you thrive in life without any worries.
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