How To Recognize, Identify & Avoid Financial Scams
A Helpful Guide for Keeping Your Money Safe
The Unfortunate Reality of Scams
Fraud is on the rise and scammers are consistently creating new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting victims, making it more and more difficult for consumers to protect themselves against fraud. Fortunately, if you have a good understanding of how these scams work and are willing to implement some best practices, you can keep yourself protected.
Recognizing Different Types of Scams
Let’s take a look at common types of scams to understand what they are and how they work.
The process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy source. Emails claiming to be from popular social sites, banks, auction sites, or IT admins are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public.
A type of malware that denies access to a computer system or the files on that system by encrypting (scrambling) the files until a ransom has been paid and then only decrypting (descrambling) the files after payment.
Debt Collection Scams
When someone poses as an agent for a debt collection agency and tries to convince victims to pay a debt that may or may not have already been paid off.
Fraud has been an unfortunate byproduct of legitimate dating sites. While these sites have brought thousands of couples together, they have also given rise to romance scams where users pretend to have an interest in someone when all they really want is their money. Often times, these will take place over a period of time, giving the scammer an opportunity to build trust with their victim before asking for money.
People are generally (and obviously) more willing to give money to someone they know and trust as opposed to a stranger. That’s why scammers will often pretend to be someone close to their victim, convincing them to lower their guard and send money without asking questions.
Tricking or deceiving computer systems or other computer users. This is typically done by hiding one’s identity or faking the identity of another user on the internet. Email spoofing involves sending messages from a fake email address or faking the email address of another user. Since people are much more likely to read a message from an address they know, hackers will often spoof addresses to trick the recipient into taking an action they would not normally take.
When someone obtains sensitive personal information (e.g., social security number, drivers license number, address, etc.) and uses it to pose as that individual to participate in fraudulent activity. This usually involves opening up credit cards and taking out loans leaving the victim with a large financial burden.
A scam requiring victims to either pay a fee or provide sensitive personal information to receive a free prize. Scammers rely on the victim’s excitement of winning to lower their guard and provide the information requested to claim the prize.
Scammers like to prey on people’s emotions — that’s why they will pose as a representative for a real or fictitious charity trying to get victims to make a donation. While the victim thinks they are contributing to a good cause, they are actually giving their money directly to the scammer.
Tips For Protecting You & Your Money
Use these tips and best practices to recognize scams in the moment and keep your money safe.
Keep yourself up to date on the latest trends so you can be prepared if / when a scam presents itself.
Use A Password Manager
Use one of the many password management apps to create, store and safely access all your passwords.
Use online banking tools to create account alerts and get notified instantly when a transaction matches your criteria.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is — be cautious when interacting with unsolicited calls and emails.
Protect Your Personal Info
Only provide personal information to trusted sources and only when it is truly needed to fulfill a request initiated by you.
Check For Authenticity
If you receive a suspicious email, carefully check the spelling of the email address to confirm it came from a legitimate source.
Monitor Your Credit
Help fight identify theft by checking your credit report regularly to know when new accounts are opened under your name.
Do Your Own Research
Don’t fall victim to fraud by giving into pressure on an unsolicited call. Take your time to research the opportunity before making any decisions.
Get in the habit of asking questions. If someone gives you an answer that isn’t clear, don’t be afraid to ask again to get clarification.
You have questions. We have answers. See below for a list of our most frequently asked security questions.
R.I.A. customers have access to detailed guides (via our online banking application) that teach users more best practices for safely navigating the web. Topics include password management, protecting your identity, avoiding malware, email safety, wifi best practices and more.
The quicker you recognize fraud and take action the better. In addition to reporting the fraud to your local authorities, you will want to take any steps that will prevent any further damage. This will depend on the type of fraud, but could include changing online passwords, pausing your credit and / or debit card, and reaching out to other individuals or companies involved.
While anyone can become a victim of fraud, scammers will often times target the elderly or people that are more susceptible to emotional manipulation (e.g., people looking for a relationship, recent loss of a family member, etc.).
Yes! Fraud comes in many forms, but generally speaking, if someone you are interacting with is pressuring you and / or avoiding your questions, that is typically a red flag, especially if it is in response to an unsolicited call or email.
Another thing to avoid is opportunities that sound too good to be true – this is often a scammer trying to take advantage of your emotional response to what is being presented as a great opportunity.