Even if you think you’re pretty savvy about fraud and possess both the knowledge and skepticism needed to thwart most attempts, two factors can weaken your defenses: speed and feelings. Criminals commonly prey on our desire for convenience and our emotional relationship with money when devising their scams.
Here are some of the cons experts currently see surging and how to repel these attacks on your personal security.
THE SCAM: Unforgiveable student loan offers
This con has taken several forms over the years, but it boils down to the same primary tactic: using the offer of financial relief to seduce you into giving out your personal details. Recently, fraudsters have been sending texts, robocalls, and emails offering assistance with student loan forgiveness. All you have to do is fill out a simple form to expedite the process. Of course the form is fake and your vital information is stolen.
THE PLAN: Never Assume
One of the most critical information safety rules to remember is simple: Never assume the person or automated service you’re communicating with is who they say they are. While it’s enticing to think of quickly getting out from under crushing educational debt, there’s no need to rush it – despite what a fraudster might tell you. Visit www.studentaid.gov for the real lowdown on what you’re entitled to and how to get it.
THE SCAM: “Hitman” threats
If you ever wondered how low scammers will go, you now have your answer. In this pathetic attempt to blackmail you, criminals gather as much information on you as they can via social media. They then use that information, like the names of loved ones or common places you visit, to claim they will harm you or someone you love. Then, they offer to call off the violent act if you pay a ransom.
THE PLAN: Leave it alone and contact law enforcement
If the scammer knows they have your attention, they’re more likely to continue to harass you. DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM. Instead, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and local law enforcement. As a general rule, be careful about what you post online, as it can potentially be used for intimidation.
THE SCAM: Fake delivery messages
Cybercriminals have taken to sending fake messages explaining that a package is delayed or that a delivery was attempted unsuccessfully. In the case of a delayed package, you’re advised that you need to update your account information for delivery to proceed. A link is provided that then harvests your personal information. In the unsuccessful delivery version of this scam, you’re informed that you’ll need to pay a fee for another delivery attempt.
THE PLAN: Take a deep breath and disengage
It’s a fast world. You’re used to accomplishing tasks or resolving issues in seconds with a few clicks and keystrokes. But it’s a good practice to avoid links in emails or texts and instead navigate on your own to sites where you’ve conducted business. It takes a bit longer, but during the extra seconds, comfort yourself because your information is safer.
It’s easy to get frustrated when a new type of fraud is being perpetrated everyday. But keep these fundamental questions in mind before responding to any unsolicited requests:
- Do I know to whom I’ve giving this information? Am I sure?
- Am I sure of the source of this link and where it will lead me?
- Do they really need this information?
- Should I send money this way? (Ex. Why would the IRS want me to pay them in the form of gift cards?)
- Can I end this interaction and contact the company directly?