Scammers Are Getting Smarter in 2020: 5 Ways to Spot Them Online, Over the Phone and In Person
About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area, that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual financial planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
According to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA,) scammers have gotten bolder in their extortion methods, impersonating law enforcement on the phone and even threatening people on the other line.1
Scamming has been exacerbated even further by the pandemic, with scammers taking advantage of citizens in an already anxiety-inducing climate. Be aware of these five red flags when getting on the phone, checking your email or using social media. This can help you avoid even getting trapped in a conversation with a scammer in the first place.
Red Flag #1: They Make an Identity Claim
Many scammers are now utilizing strategies where they claim to be trustworthy sources, such as a government agency or even your bank, in order to extrapolate information from you. If you receive a strange call, text or email with an unfamiliar hyperlink, this is a tell-tale sign that you’re being scammed.2
Never click on mysterious hyperlinks or respond to uncertified messages asking for your personal information, especially if it involves money. For instance, many scammers are claiming to be government agencies providing an update on COVID-19 economic support. Do not blindly trust these claims.
Red Flag #2: They Need Your Personal Information Immediately
A scammer’s goal is to get your personal information as quickly as possible. Especially due to the pandemic, scammers are preying on people’s fear. In addition to making a brazen identity claim, a scammer will often state that they need information or money immediately or something terrible will happen. Be aware of this behavior instead of allowing it to induce stress.
If you’re already in contact with them and start displaying doubts, a scammer may even get aggressive about needing your information. This is another sign that you’re dealing with a scam. A genuine source will never require you to reveal personal information like this.3
Red Flag #3: You Must Wire Money
Once a scammer receives money from you, their goal is to disappear with it, becoming extremely hard to track. If an entity is asking you to send money via a wire transfer or reload pack, this is likely a scam - because these payment methods are very hard to track.3
Moreover, if someone is requiring you to send money quickly in an unorthodox fashion, they are likely a scammer.
Red Flag #4: It Doesn’t Apply
This is one of the more obvious strategies. For instance, a scammer may contact a teenager about car insurance when the teenager doesn’t even own a car in their name. Nonetheless, the frightening and urgent language of the call could get them stuck in an uncomfortable conversation with someone who is (in all likelihood) a scammer.
If somebody approaches or calls you with an offer or issue that clearly does not apply to you, get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
Red Flag #5: It’s Too Good to Be True
Unfortunately, getting a really good deal on something is often a sign that it may be a scam. A scammer will promise you something that seems far too good to be true as a way to draw you in. Even if a scammer’s website seems extremely official or a scammer approaches you in person looking very professional, that is often a front to gain trust.
This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed, and it can happen in almost any area of business. Always stay wary of untrustworthy sources, and if you seem to be getting too good of a deal on insurance or even something as big as an apartment rental or car, do more research on the identity of the source.
It’s much easier to get scammed then one would think. Make sure that you’re aware of the tell-tale signs of a scam and avoid allowing your fear to get the best of you in these situations. Getting scammed is a taxing and costly ordeal that nobody deserves to go through.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a business, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals is their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. If you're looking for guidance on: Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.
On the first Thursday of every month I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to help you manage your Finances. In the October Newsletter, I discuss how the stock market doesn't historically care who's in the White House. I also share a Fox Business Network article, where I'm quoted, about paying down debt or investing.
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