When Consumers Get Smart, Scammers Get Smarter
So you think you’re pretty smart when it comes to scams.
You know there is no wealthy Nigerian prince who needs money to escape – and there’s certainly no reward for sending him your hard-earned cash. You’re careful to not click on links or open attachments from email addresses you do not recognize. But as consumers become more aware, scammers become savvier. They know we live online and on our phones, and they use both to get even the wariest individuals to fall for their scams. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.
When it comes to phone scams, be smart with these tips:
- Caller ID isn’t foolproof. Scammers often use technology to make a call appear to be coming from a name and number you will recognize so you are more likely to answer. As soon as you realize you don’t know the caller, or they ask for money or any personal information, hang up.
- Don’t try to opt-out of robocalls, just hang up on them. "Opting out” confirms they have reached a working number and can lead to even more calls.
- Register your phone number(s) with the FTC’s Do Not Call registry. Scammers may still get through but by receiving fewer unsolicited calls overall, you may lessen the chances of becoming a victim.
- Do an online search for numbers you do not recognize and block calls from ones that have been reported as scams.
Assume any unsolicited call is a potential scam.
- Never share any personally identifiable information (PII) – such as your Social Security number, bank and credit card account numbers, and birthdate – with an unsolicited caller.
To protect yourself from online scams:
- Use strong, unique passwords for each online account, and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) when available. Even strong passwords can be hacked, so 2FA goes one step further, asking you to provide something you have, such as an access card or physical token, or something you are, such as a fingerprint or iris scan, to verify your identity.
- Shop smart online. Look for “https” in the web address you are accessing, along with a lock icon, which indicates secure payment, and pay with a credit card or use a third-party payment provider, such as PayPal, when possible.
- Be cautious about people you meet online. Not everyone who has a car or event tickets for sale on Craigslist is legitimate, and someone you meet on a dating site may be more interested in your identity and your money than romance.
- Be skeptical of “free trials,” especially those that require a credit card number upfront. This can lead to recurring charges that can be hard to cancel.
- Share less on social media. Mentioning your favorite food or your pet’s name, talking about your high school reunion and sharing real-time vacation photos can reveal clues that could help identity thieves answer knowledge-based questions and access your online accounts.
- Don’t connect with people you don’t know and check your privacy settings to control who can see what. Also, take advantage of our new Social Media Monitoring feature; update your account information to include your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts!
To avoid becoming a scam victim in general, it pays to trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, if someone is asking you to make a quick decision, if they won’t provide a number for you to call them back, or if they’re asking for any kind of payment, hang up or log out. Be aware of the latest scams by signing up for alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/scams. And rest assured knowing that if you do fall victim to a scam, IDShield investigators are here to help you recover.