Knowledge is power. When it comes to avoiding scams, forewarned is forearmed. Here are a few common types of scams that criminals will use to try to steal your money or – more importantly – your identity.
1. Give Money to Get Money
If you ever receive an “official” notification that you’ve won a lottery or that someone wants to generously give you a large sum of money but first you need to send money to cover taxes, fees, clearances, or some other cost before collecting your prize, proceed with extreme caution!
The common thread with this scam, apart from the too-good-to-be-true offer, is that you must “act now” or respond immediately to the official sending the notice. This scam relies on you feeling pressured to not miss out on the deal or prize.
One of the most well-known versions of this type of scam is the Nigerian Prince (also known as the 419 Scam).
Phishing is almost what it sounds like. Someone is fishing – and using bait – to obtain sensitive information to steal everything from the cash in your bank account to your identity.
Phishing scams replicate official-looking emails (or other communication types) from well-known and reputable companies. These fake emails include links or phone numbers encouraging you to change passwords or send personal documents and information (to update your account). The email will make some claim that there is an issue with your account (i.e. you need to supply documents to receive funds being remitted to you) and you need to click on the link provided to fix the problem. These links may take you to a look-alike site created by the criminals or contain malware (malicious software) which can give the criminals access to your computer (so don’t click!). Phone numbers may work the same way by directing you to a fake answering service.
There are a number of sub-species of the Phishing scam:
a) Spear Phishing
Spear Phishing is a little more sophisticated as it specifically targets you and relies on the trust you’ve built around a person, company, or brand. Most likely the communication will be personalized. Criminals target you from information they have found on sites like social media.
b) Clone Phishing
Clone Phishing differs in that it will copy a legitimate email that included an attachment or link. The attachment or link is replaced with a fraudulent version and the email is sent from a disguised address that appears to come from the original sender. The email may claim to be just a resend of the original or even an updated version.
Whaling goes after the “big fish”. It targets senior executives or high-profile people within in a company. This type of fraud usually appears as a legitimate concern such as a legal request or subpoena, client issue, or corporate matter.
Cute name, not so cute fraud tactic using text or SMS. Potential victims receive an unsolicited text or SMS message with a link to a site that can contain malware or viruses. The urge to click is usually based on a “confirmation” of account activity and the risk of incurring additional charges or fees if the intended victim doesn’t take care of the problem immediately (by clicking the link).
3. Fear-Based (Service Cut Off/Jail Time)
You receive notification, usually through email or phone, that your account is in areas and you need to pay the balance immediately or have the utility service cut off. This type of fraud includes claims of unpaid taxes requiring immediate payment to avoid jail time. Criminals in this case are dependent on your fear of losing a necessity, like heat or water, or your personal freedom.
The ultimate goal of the criminal is to rob you. Criminals will try every sneaky tactic to get what they want and will play upon your fears, your generosity, or your trustfulness to get it.
Scammers attack when you’re least expecting it and often prey on the most well-intentioned people. Educate yourself on how to protect yourself and your loved ones from unexpected fraud. Here are several resources that provide helpful information:
- Federal Trade Commission
- United States Government
- National Consumers League (U.S)
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
- Scam Watch (Australia)
- Financial Fraud Action UK
Remember, no matter who is contacting you, NEVER give them any of your passwords, account numbers, or personal information without double-checking their identity first.
Be smart, be aware, and be safe!
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