By Emily Kampeter – Vice President & Wealth Management Advisor

It would be great if scammers put their energy and creativity into something good. Unfortunately, they don’t, and we must be vigilant in protecting ourselves. The following is a review of the latest scam trends:

Phishing (Email): Scammers try to obtain your personal information, including your Social Security number, passwords, or account information, by pretending to be from a legitimate source (e.g., bank or government entity).

Grandparent: Fraudsters pose as a panicked grandchild who needs a large sum of money to pay for an emergency (e.g., hospital bill, bail, or money to leave a foreign country). They also plead for you not to tell other family members.

Smishing (Text Message): Scammers send text messages pretending to be your bank, boss, or friend and ask you to send money via Zelle, PayPal, Venmo, wire, etc., to pay a bill for them or ask you for information to reset your online account.

Tech Support: Criminals pose as technology representatives and offer to fix your non-existent computer problem by gaining remote access to your devices and sensitive information.

Online Dating: Fraudsters set up a fake identity to gain your affection and trust. By creating the illusion of a romantic relationship, they manipulate and steal from you by asking for money to travel to see you, gift cards, and converting money into cryptocurrency such as bitcoin for a “sure-fire investment” or money for an emergency.

Prize/Lottery: Scammers ask you to pay taxes, shipping and handling, or processing charges to receive a “prize.” They may convince you that your odds of winning will increase if you provide your financial information.

Credit Card: Criminals pose as charities to collect credit card information, especially after hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Crooks monitor public Wi-Fi networks to trap card or other personal/financial information. Some recruit people with good credit to open cards, make transactions, generate rewards, convert points to cash, and then cancel purchases.

Stealing: Stealing your wallet or purse still proves to be an easy way for scammers to get money with your credit card, checkbook, driver’s license, and Social Security number. A string of smash-and-grab burglaries gives criminals several IDs and checks to make withdrawals.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one in 10 adults fall victim to a scam or fraud each year, so it’s important to stay alert. The reminders below provide some excellent tips:

  1. Don’t give out your personal information if you didn’t expect the request. Most government, financial, and healthcare institutions have your personal information, so they don’t need you to provide your Social Security number, bank account number, or other confidential information.
  2. Stop. You don’t need to act immediately. Don’t feel pressured to provide your information in a timely manner. Honest people and businesses will give you time to make decisions. 
  3. Be suspicious of how scammers tell you to pay. If someone insists on payment by wire, gift card, cryptocurrency, or peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (e.g., Zelle or Venmo) only, be skeptical. Also, don’t deposit a check and immediately wire money back to someone.
  4. Talk to someone you trust. If you talk to a friend or family member about your situation, it could help you realize you’re being scammed.
  5. Monitor your computer/phone and bank accounts. Ensure your anti-virus, security software, and malware protection are current. Check your accounts daily or set alerts for unusual activity.
  6. Trust your instinct. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you fall victim to a scam, don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help! Tell your bank and investment/financial advisor immediately and consider filing a police report and/or contacting the attorney general’s office. You also can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the local FBI field office. Anyone can be a target for scammers. Be sure to continuously monitor your credit for suspicious activity and treat any unusual communication attempts with caution.