These Top Scams Are Heading Your Way
By: Jim Stickley and Tina Davis
September 21, 2023
This year’s top scams are bigger and better than ever. Phishing scams hit new heights during the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 2.1 million complaints from scam victims last year. The most common reports were about imposter scams, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The FTC finds that last year, the financial cost of these fraudulent scams was more than $3.3 billion. Most scams are preventable, and awareness is the first step to stopping them. Below are some of the top scam attacks to look out for.
- Coronavirus scams. Still very active, fraud is the top star here. Scammers are pedaling everything from coronavirus cures to selling non-existent PPE supplies. There are bogus healthcare workers that need your personal information, Medicare and unemployment scams, and a host of other pandemic-related fraud.
- Elder Americans. Social Security and Medicare scams are leading the way. Phone calls (vishing) and actual door-to-door scammers are used to do their bidding. Top ruses have to do with alleged problems with a victim’s Social Security account or fines they need to pay or else… They demand payments through wire transfers, sending cash, gift cards, and pre-paid debit cards and other quick payments.
- Investment Scams. The lure of big returns on investments can be difficult to avoid, with scammers happy to provide new investment opportunities, especially involving cryptocurrency. Doing your homework before handing over any financial assets is key to avoiding these scams.
- Romance Scams. Affairs of the heart can be costly, including financially. The FTC shows just how costly these scams can be, with over $300 million lost last year, nearly a 50% increase over the prior year. The median broken heart cost $2,500 and maybe a lot of tears. Approach potential heart throbs with an abundance of caution no matter how convincing they are.
- Tech Support Scams. Beware any email phishing messages, pop-ups or phone calls warning your device is compromised or not working properly. Of course, it’s scammers behind all of them, offering their services to fix the problem. Legitimate tech support companies won’t contact you directly about device problems. What they want is access to your device and/or payment information for their so-called help.
- Delivery Scams. Americans continue to be victims of package delivery scams. Scammers use texts, phishing emails, and phone calls warning a package can’t be delivered until more information is provided. They impersonate known delivery services or retailers, all to get you to divulge personal information they can use for future scams.
- Travel Scams. Being cooped-up during the pandemic has led to an avalanche of travelers this year, as TripAdvisor confirms. Travel scams abound, from great deals on vacation destinations including plane tickets, hotel stays, and car rentals. Scammers want your personal information and payment data for vacation plans that don’t exist, but the scam is for real.
- Fake Job Openings. The FTC finds 70% more job scams in Q1 of 2020 were reported than in all of 2019. Fake job opportunities abound. Scammers tell you the job is yours, but you need to provide a host of personal information to seal the deal. Happy job winners gladly provide what scammers want, including copies of their driver’s license, banking data (for depositing your paycheck), and even passport information.
- Phishing and Smishing Impersonation Scams. Scammers find the name of an employee of well-known companies like Netflix or Amazon and pose as them. Using email phishing and texts (smishing), they target company customers with messages containing malicious links or malware-filled attachments. Acting on them gives scammers what they’re after: access to personal data, messages, contacts, and more. The FBI’s IC3 reports victims lost $57 million to phishing scams in one year.
Scam Prevention Tips
- “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” These are words to live by when scammers present scenarios that seem too good to be true, like saying you’ve won a contest or gift card.
- Know the red flags of email phishing. Never respond to emails with generic greetings, misspelling, or bad grammar as they’re sure signs of a scammer. Don’t open attachments or follow links, especially if you don’t know the sender. If an email seems strange in any way, delete it and move on.
- Never give personal information, including banking data, in an email, text or unsolicited phone call. If you want to check what you’re being told is needed, type in the true company website or phone number yourself and check your account. Consider bookmarking websites for those accounts you use most often.