Scammers are like viruses: they continually evolve in response to the latest news and trends. Here are two scam variations that experts have seen trending so far in 2023.
“Wrong number” texts seem harmless, but they are a means of establishing a conversation that turns into a relationship that can last for weeks or months. Eventually, the new friend explains how they’ve made a lot of money investing in crypto, or gold futures, and they can show you how, too. Be on guard for these ‘errant’ texts – don’t respond and block the number.
The new twist on package delivery scams comes with a text from a “driver” who can’t find your house. They may ask you to click on a link which could install credential-stealing malware onto your device. Don’t trust links, period. If you’re awaiting a delivery and get a text, contact the carrier through a means you know to be legitimate to see if there’s a problem. Tip: there won’t be.
Social media has become a dangerous marketplace. Scammers are great at creating slick ads and professional looking websites and for minimal cost they can force them into your feed. According to the Federal Trade Commission, $2.7 billion in reported fraud losses have been tied to social media since 2021 and 44% of those came from fake sales.
Look out for any online sales that are too good to be true; experts say to be suspicious of anything marked down 55% or more. Also be wary of any product or websites that offer popular or hard-to find products at a steeply discounted price. Purchasing products on these sites can lead to shoddy products being delivered or receiving nothing at all. Worse, the site could steal your payment information or upload credential-stealing malware onto your device.
Links cannot be trusted – whether from a social media post, an ad, an email or a text. Shop on sites you trust, and always go directly to the online store by typing the web address into your browser.
In August of 2022 the Veterans Administration (VA) began the largest expansion of benefits in its history with the enactment of the PACT Act. The Act, which compensates military personnel and veterans for exposure to toxic chemicals has led to 4.5 million toxic screenings and the expansion of benefits to more than 400,000 individuals. It has also created an opportunity for criminal scammers.
This is no surprise as veterans are a frequent target of scammers. In fact, veterans and active-duty military members are 40% more likely to lose money to a scam compared to the civilian population. The most prevalent PACT Act related scams come via email and online offers claiming to help with the “Camp Lejeune Settlement.” The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, part of the PACT Act, allows vets and their survivors to pursue compensation if they developed serious illnesses from water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
The catch? The criminals seek payment to help veterans apply for the benefit. Know this – no veteran ever must pay to apply for benefits or receive military records.
The holiday deals have already begun, but buyer beware – not all of those great deals you see online are legit. Because if the online shopping season has started it means that online scam season has officially begun too.
Here are the two simple steps you can take to stay a step ahead of the online grinch this holiday shopping season.
Type – don’t click. The safest place to shop online is with retailers you trust by using their app or typing their web address into your browser rather than clicking on a link from a text, email or online ad. Also, know that unbelievable deal a social media contact messages you about is truly not to be believed. Fraud criminals are expert at hacking social media accounts and one of the first things they do is send out fake offers to a victim’s friends and family.
One of the most nefarious scams today is bank impersonation. Money stolen through these schemes is rarely recoverable, so it’s particularly important to be aware of this scam and share what you know with others.
Most of these schemes start with a text from what appears to be your bank, alerting the target to a suspicious transaction, and asking to respond “yes” or “no” as to whether it’s legitimate. As soon as the target enters “no” the phone rings, and the caller claims to be with their bank’s fraud department and warns that the account has been compromised. The solution involves moving money out of the account and into a new one, or even into cryptocurrency. The criminal then makes off with the funds. When the victim contacts the bank, they are told that because they “authorized” the transactions to move the funds, the bank is not liable for the losses.
These scams can be especially effective because they mimic real fraud alerts used by banks. The clue that it is an impostor is the live call after the text: banks monitor for suspicious activity using algorithms and machine learning – not using humans who then call you in person to address the issue.
You aren’t able to trust text messages, or emails, or phone calls these days. Anytime your bank contacts you, do not engage. Rather, contact them through a channel you know to be legitimate to see if there is an issue.