Since the beginning of humanity, there have always been people that didn't mind taking advantage of others. But now that we have cell phones, the internet, and global human connection and communication, scammers are just about everywhere you look.
Some scams are fairly easy to see through, while others are much more elaborate. Many of them are incredibly skilled at what they do and have resources at their disposal to make their scams seem even more realistic. Either way, scammers all have one goal: To con you into giving them your hard-earned money. We've compiled a list of ways for you to protect yourself against scammers:
- Common sense is your best defense. If it seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is. It may be helpful to imagine things in an in-person setting; would some random stranger walk up to you on the street and offer you a large sum of money in exchange for a $200.00 gift card? Is a 21-year-old model going to profess her undying love for you out of nowhere, especially if you're an older man? These things seem ridiculous, but they're exactly the types of scenarios that scammers use online with the anonymity of the internet to hide behind.
- Use extreme caution when communicating with people you don't personally know. Many people enjoy making friends online, but it's in your best interest to avoid this. Scammers prey on loneliness, vulnerability, and emotions, and they use the anonymity of the internet to get away with it. If you want to meet new people, explore options for doing so in person.
- Don't open emails unless you are certain you know and trust the sender! Emails can contain viruses, malware, trojans, and other such programs that can allow scammers to steal your personal information from your computer or phone. If the sender is someone you don't recognize, or if anything looks or seems suspicious, don't open the email.
- Don't fall for scare tactics. As mentioned before, scammers prey on loneliness, vulnerability, and emotions. Many of them opt for trying to scare you into doing what they want by threatening to have you arrested for a crime you have no knowledge of, lawsuits for things they accuse you of, or sending your personal information (that they claim they have) to your contacts (which they also claim they have). Do not give these people an audience, whether it comes in the form of an email, an instant message, or a phone call.
- Don't give out personal or financial information on the phone, on the internet, or even through the mail unless you are absolutely certain of what you're doing and why. A legitimate company will understand the need to protect personal information; a scammer will try to pry it out of you.
- Ask plenty of questions! As mentioned previously, a legitimate company will understand your need to protect your personal information, and should be happy to explain why they need it and how it will be used. You have the right to know these things, but a scammer will evade your questions or even become angry.
- Use a different password for your email than your other accounts. If a hacker gets his hands on your Facebook password and it happens to be the same as your email password - that you most likely use to log in to Facebook with - that hacker will also have access to your email and can then easily break into your other accounts.
- If you have a friend or relative that's tech-savvy, you can always ask them for help. If you think something is a scam, it probably is. But it doesn't hurt to ask someone you trust what they think, and they may even be able to help you avoid future incidents as well.
- If you are the friend or relative that's tech-savvy, help your less tech-savvy people out if they ask you questions, even if they seem silly to you. You might help them avoid a negative outcome by simply pointing out something that they didn't realize might be a problem.
- Make sure your children understand what a scam is, and how to avoid them. Adults aren't the only vulnerable people out there. Know what your kids are doing on the internet and on their phones at all times. If your children are young, you can download a program like Screen Time (linked below) on their devices to monitor their activities while still giving them privacy.
We love our clients, and we want you to be safe out there! Check out our resources below for lots more information, and make sure to take precautions to protect yourself from scams.