Beware of Scams

Scamming; do you think you known enough to avoid it? Do you think you can handle it if you run into it? Better be careful- scamming is a huge threat all of the time, everywhere, especially on the internet. But what is scamming? Without getting into details, a scam is a fraudulent business scheme, or a swindle. If we are getting into details, scamming techniques have gotten shadier, sneakier, and more advanced over time.

Phishing scams, not fishing scams, are probably the most well-known type. This is because they happen the most often. What are they, you may ask. Phishing scams are any sort of communication, emails,  through social media, pop ups, or even texts that appear to be from an official source. The reasons they give are limitless; you won a prize, there’s a new update for your devices, your bank account is about to be frozen; but in the end, all phishing scams have the same goal of taking your valuable information. It doesn’t matter whether they ask you to actually input your private information , or just ask you to click on a link embedded in the message that will release a virus on your device. Following their directions will almost always cost you. So how can you avoid a phishing scam? Well they are nearly impossible to avoid. However, the best way to protect yourself from these scams is to simply having good judgement. Read the message carefully and check for minor mistakes that could be clues that the message is fake. Look for grammar mistakes and basic spelling errors. Hover your mouse over any links provided. This could reveal where the link actually takes you, not where the message says it will.

Another scam that frequently occurs is the simple phone call. This scam is possibly the most dangerous because responding in any way could give away valuable information. Think about it, just by answering a number you don’t recognize you are letting the dialer know that your’s is a working number. Also, you may be likely to answer any call they give you which makes you a prime target. An unusual scam that is being used more often along the East Coast is where the dialer will ask “Can you hear me?” to those who answer. After you reply, they hang up on you. What you don’t know, is if you answered “yes”, the scammer recorded your voice. They can now splice your voice into phone bills, payment plans, and anything else they want. And probably over 1,000 dollars just went out of your pocket. A tip to keep yourself out of this dilemma is to avoid answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If you do answer and are uncertain whether the call is legitimate or not, just don’t reply and hang up. You could save yourself a whole bunch of inconvenience this way.

A third scam technique is known simply as the get-rich-quick method, or cheating people out of their money while leading them to believe they will receive a huge reward. Nicole was simply browsing the internet one day when a pop up message informed her that she’d just won a  free holiday to the Bahamas. It then required her to call a number within the next three minutes to claim her prize. Nicole called the number and informed the woman on the other end of the line that she was accepting her holiday. The woman (acting very excited) mentioned a few details, and then asked for Nicole’s credit card details. After handing them over, Nicole was informed that she was locked into buying this holiday. After realizing the holiday was not completely free, Nicole panicked and tried to withdraw from the deal, but the woman refused. Nicole wound up talking to the manager who told her they could reduce her price and she could try to sell the holiday to someone else, but she would have to agree to the company’s terms and conditions first. Nicole asked if she could wait until her husband was home, but the manager responded that she would be charged 1,000 dollars if she hung up the phone, and double if she made a complaint. Nicole ended up agreeing to to their policies without really understanding them, and finally hung up the phone. She called her bank straight away and cancelled her credit card, and her bank eventually got her money back. In this scenario, the victim was fortunate enough to reclaim all of her money, but in most cases that money is as good as gone. Even though Nicole and her husband didn’t lose any money, they were still caused a lot of stress and difficulty throughout their ordeal.

The thing is, a lot of scamming examples that we know of today could have been avoided easily with smart decisions. Is it likely you’d win a lottery you don’t remember entering in? If not, then any emails and phone calls asking for your personal info to receive the prize are probably fake. It’s so much easier to just hang up the phone or ignore an email than to spend days or weeks trying to recover stolen valuables. Be proactive, not reactive!

By Marianne Wood

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