It’s tax season and that means that you should expect me to write about tax scams. That would be too easy. Everyone else is writing about it anyway.
Instead I’d like to look at just a few online scams. It would be impossible to cover everything online in one article. One of the problems with some online scams is that they are advertised on the traditional and social media. I’ve been hearing a lot of Noxitril male enhancement ads, which reminds me of the old Enzyte marketing. I certainly won’t be giving them my money, but it seems like some people are or else they won’t be able to run the ads.
One of the reasons that there are so many scams online is that it’s easy to put something out there. I used to be able to put a website up in under 10 minutes on Amazon Web Services. It’s nearly impossible for law enforcement to crack down on all the scams out there. More computer tricks are being invented to scam online users their hard earned money. Potential fraudsters have a lot of tricks to try to get your personal information.
Here are my best tips to fight back against the fraudsters:
1. Be skeptical
As my long-time blogging friends at Money Crashers says
Conmen have dubious ways that make their scams appear sound and legitimate. I’m not sure how to help someone develop critical thinking skills, but you have use them whenever you come across anything online. There are many email offers that are phishing scams. People on social media can push MLM scams as well. There are fake testimonials and product reviews on many sites.
It’s hard to know what to trust, so your best defense is to be skeptical.
2. Protect Your Personal Information
As I wrote above, there’s a lot of different kind of online attacks out there. Fraudsters employ a variety of tricks to access your details and password. From that article, I learned there is a thing called “SMiShing” that’s like phishing with SMS messages.
While this isn’t an online attack, I often get calls from banks about certain things and they look for me to confirm my information by giving it to them. I always ask to call them back, so that I know it’s not a stranger on the other end pretending to be the bank. Sometimes I find it hard to remember to do this though.
And it should go without saying, but it should be very rarely necessary to give out your Social Security Number over the phone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a reason to do that. I’ve done it online a few times with some banks and medical institutions that I am confident aren’t scammers.
3. Beware of counterfeit checks
Most people don’t have this problem. However, we sell products online. Sometimes we find something really discounted at a T.J. Maxx or thrift shop and can get more by posting it on Craigslist or OfferUp. I’ve read that scammers send you a fake check with more money than the agreed amount. They will do it intentionally and request that you refund the extra amount. When you make such refunds, they ghost you.
4. Take time before making decisions
Never allow someone to rush you to make a buying decision. I always like to compare several products before deciding to buy. This is especially true if the product is is going to cost more than a few hundred dollars. You also need to be aware of “exploding offers”, which is a limited time deal that’s only good if you decide that day. If it’s good company, they’ll be confident enough in their product or service to know you’ll get back to them after you do the research.
Here are some more training materials on tips to avoid being scammed. It’s a great collection of videos, articles, and infographics. Also, it’s all free.
5. Always use written contracts
I’m toying with the idea of getting rid of my phone number. Seriously. I’ve been thinking of going full out Kramer in Seinfeld when he wants to opt out of receiving mail. I only like to talk on the phone with about three people and the number of robocalls makes about 90% of calls to me useless.
Sorry, I went off on a tangent there. What I meant to write is that you should be sure to get everything in writing. When someone offers me a deal on the phone, I ask them to mail it to my house. If it’s a scam, that sometimes is enough to end the call. Once you have everything in writing, it’s important to read all the fine print. I know that few people do (and I’m one of them). This is one of those times you have to balance being skeptical with the offer itself.
I know I gave a lot of “homework” in reading other resources in this article. It might seem like protecting yourself is difficult. However, most of this stuff is something that you learn once and you have it forever. The scammers are usually going to try to target the people who aren’t going to take the time to learn the basics in the first place. It’s not worth their time to try to get someone who is knowledgeable, so they’ll likely move onto their next “mark.”
* The thoughts expressed in this article are my opinions only. I make no suggestion that any particular company or product is a scam or fraudulent. However, it is important to note that such expressions are legally protected opinions as court judges have previously cited my article about what a scam is.
Abigail @ipickuppennies says
Good points. I think the thing that trips me up sometimes is subnet masking on emails so that it looks like the email comes from a legitimate company.
So I a) hover my cursor over the name and see what email appears or b) even after I verify the sender if I’m feeling especially paranoid I’ll go to the site itself without clicking through the email. I do this with my quarterly card bonus activation, even though I’m pretty positive it’s Chase. I don’t like the idea of clicking an email link and then entering my bank’s login information on the resulting page.