By Laynie Nguyen
Anyone can be a victim of a scam or fraud. Despite the perception that online scams target mostly older adults, a new study found that more members of Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2012—had lost data or money due to online scams than their older counterparts.
Scammers are always looking for ways to trick consumers out of their hard-earned money, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Being alert and informed are the best defenses to stop scammers in their tracks.
How you pay matters
Digital payment methods can help limit access to fraudsters finding your bank account. When sending money digitally, however, make sure you know and trust the recipient. If you send money, you may not get it back if it’s a scam.
Beware of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or “deep fake” scams
Smart technology allows scammers to duplicate familiar voices and trick consumers out of their money and personal information. Scammers can gain the trust of victims by pretending to be a close family member or friend in need of money. Be extra careful of friends or family members calling suddenly and needing help. Hang up and call them back on a number you know to be theirs or call someone else who knows them.
Watch out for that email, text or call from “your bank”
Scammers can impersonate banks, utility companies, and government agencies to trick consumers out of money. Scammers will contact victims via call or text, demanding money to ensure something doesn’t happen to their accounts. Sometimes, they say they need your account information to investigate suspicious activity. They “spoof” or trick you by using caller ID info from your bank, or website links that look legitimate. If someone calls you and tells you there’s something wrong with your account, hang up and call your bank directly using the number on the back of your debit or credit card.
Don’t let your favorite retailers fool you
Scammers will claim to be a company you may be familiar with and declare there is an issue with your account or a recent order or send you a fake receipt for goods to incite you to dispute them. Make purchases from trusted websites and vendors only. Steer clear of private sellers or websites with sales at prices that seem too good to be true. Never go off an online platform to close a deal or communicate with a buyer or seller.
Beware of rental scams
Scammers may pose as landlords looking to rent a property and convince the victim to send a deposit to hold it. Make sure the listing appears on multiple online platforms, has a detailed description, contact information and good customer reviews. If possible, meet the landlord in person and visit the property to ensure the rental offering is legitimate before fulfilling any request for a money transfer.
Beware of tech support offerings
Some scammers will assert there are issues with your computer by posing as tech support and encourage you to click suspicious links via text or pop-up windows on your computer to help solve your “issue.” If a caller says your computer has a problem, hang up. Never give anyone remote access to your computer unless you can 100% verify who they are. If you’re worried about a virus or other threat, call your security software company directly, using the phone number on its website.
Stay away from “malvertising”
Scammers are placing fake phone numbers in search engines and online ads under the names of legitimate companies like banks or airlines. People call those numbers and are tricked into sharing accounts or other personal information. Avoid this “malvertising” by typing the full URL for the company in the address bar instead of entering the company name in the search bar, and don’t click search ads.
Be calm and confident
Even if you aren’t aware of all emerging threats, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim by refusing to give your personal or banking information if someone contacts you by email, text, or phone. Creating strong passwords for your online accounts and changing them often can also help protect your digital footprint.
The best defense is to stay calm and confident and use technology to your advantage. Ignore, delete and block calls, messages or emails from sources you don’t recognize and remember that banks will never ask for personal information when calling you or urge you to send money.
If you become a victim, don’t be embarrassed, and report it to your bank. Also, tell family and friends about your experience so they too can be on high alert.
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