Scams are popping up everywhere from phone calls to emails and ATM machines. In this day and age, protecting yourself against scams is more important than ever. We thought it would be helpful to offer some tips on how to spot a potential scam.
Beware of Unsolicited Emails
Emails are a popular resource for scammers since they can target the most people at any one time. Through emails, you can be in danger of downloading a virus or allowing scammers to access your computer without your knowledge. They may do so to hold your information hostage or to steal personal information such as account logins and passwords.
Some troublesome emails are obvious, but others look like legitimate messages. So, how can you protect yourself? Here are a few best practices:
- Avoid clicking links in emails. Instead, visit the websites in question directly to access your accounts.
- Never provide personal information to anyone that emails you.
- Do not open email attachments unless you trust the sender and are expecting to receive the attachments.
Also, lookout for these signs that emails are spam:
- Unusual wording (like someone used a translation program to write it).
- An over-sense of urgency (i.e. pay now or you’ll get arrested).
- No clear identification of the sender.
- Reply-to address does not match the from address.
- Sender address does not match the company they claim to be from.
- Weird sender address (i.e. Joe123857@gmail.com).
- Unsolicited emails from companies that you never gave your email address to.
Don’t Trust Unexpected Callers
Phone scams are also on the rise. Callers will claim to be from a specific company and threaten legal action if you don’t submit payment immediately. These calls can be scary, such as someone claiming to be from the IRS. As a general rule, never give out any personal information, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, PINs, etc. to someone who calls you. There’s no way to tell that they are really who they claim to be. Furthermore, scammers can use tools to make their number appear to be that of a legitimate company. Here are some ways to tell that a call is a scam:
- They ask for immediate payment over the phone.
- They ask for payment via gift card.
- They mention a debt or issue that you have never heard of before.
- They speak with a strong accent.
- They use scare tactics.
Protecting yourself against scams means being overly cautious and paranoid about these types of calls. If an issue is truly legitimate, you would have received some sort of mail or other correspondence on the matter, and not a random phone call. Don’t fall for the scare tactics of phone scammers!
Be Careful Where You Use Credit Cards
The last popular type of scam has to do with credit card usage such as a skimming machine at an ATM or a compromised machine at a store. Your best protection against this is to monitor your credit card accounts. Most credit card companies offer online account access. This allows you to see what charges were made long before you receive your monthly statement. You have the opportunity to catch issues early, before there is too much damage done. If you often use debit cards, you may want to consider using credit cards instead. This way, thieves won’t have access to funds in your account. It’s less stressful to dispute a charge to your credit card than to wait for your bank to reimburse funds to your checking account.
More on Protecting Yourself Against Scams
Being educated and aware is the best way of protecting yourself against scams. If something seems odd or not quite right, chances are, it’s a scam. Use your intuition and err on the side of caution. Visit the Massachusetts Attorney General’s website for helpful information on consumer protection laws and resources that may be available to you if you fall victim to scam.