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Obviously, scams and frauds are nothing new. But they keep evolving, depending on the circumstances. For instance, when the COVID-19 vaccines became available, some criminals promised to help individuals access the vaccine — for a fee. They failed to point out that the vaccine was available for free to everyone living in the United States.
Types of Scams
It’s important to be aware of how scams change over time and stay vigilant. For example, watch for:
Tech scams. In one version of a tech scam, scammers call and insist that your computer has a problem. They may request remote access, pretend to run a test, and then demand payment. Other scammers create pop-up windows that appear on your computer screen and warn of a security problem. They’ll instruct you to call a number to resolve these. In reality, they’re trying to access your money and/or financial information.
Legitimate tech support companies won’t send pop-up messages, nor will they contact you about a problem with your computer. If you suspect your computer has a problem, contact a computer professional you trust.
IRS impersonators.In one of the 2020 “Dirty Dozen” scams identified by the IRS, criminals send fake emails or text messages that claim to be from the IRS. They’ll ask for personal information, such as bank account numbers. Other scammers call potential victims and demand payment for non-existent tax bills. They may threaten arrest, deportation or revocation of a license if the bill isn’t paid.
Keep in mind that the IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail. Moreover, it won’t demand payment on a tax bill before you’ve had an opportunity to appeal it.
Famous company name scams.Some scammers try to leverage the names of well-known companies. For instance, a scammer may call, supposedly to alert you to a problem with your Amazon account, and will provide a number to call to fix it. Another scam may involve an email message saying your account information needs to be updated. A link will be provided to do this.
Remember, the true aim of these crimes is to obtain personal information. If you receive a call, hang up. If you receive an email asking for information, delete it. Amazon and other retailers don’t ask for personal information over the phone.
Romance scams. Some criminals seek individuals on dating websites or apps. Instead of romance, however, their goal is to establish relationships and then financially exploit their victims. Some ask for bank account information, claiming they need to deposit money. Instead, they’ll attempt to remove funds from the account. Others request compromising photos or financial information they can later use as extortion. Many try to isolate their victims from friends and family members who might see through their ploys.
It’s a good idea to research anyone with whom you connect online. Watch for individuals who promise to meet in person, but never do, because they’re not actually interested in romance.
Mortgage closing scams. These criminals take advantage of the large amounts of money that flow back and forth during the sale or purchase of a property. They may send emails that appear to come from a professional involved in the transaction, such as a real estate agent. They’ll include instructions allegedly needed to move the funds so a deal can close. Instead, the money heads to the criminal.
Ahead of closing, make sure to talk with those involved in a transaction to confirm how the money will transfer. Rather than use links or phone numbers that appear in emails, contact your settlement agent separately at a number or email address you trust. Watch for grammatical errors in emails, as these can signal the emails are fraudulent.
Ways to Respond if you’re Victimized
Despite your best efforts, you may be victimized. If so, among other steps, contact your financial institutions. They will issue new cards and passwords. In some cases, they may be able to recall a money transfer wire. Monitor your credit report for unauthorized activity. Your accounting professional can help you identify potential scams and provide help, should you be victimized.