Better Business Bureau’s 2017 most reported scams are the emails and phone calls you receive every day.
Scammers remain diligent in trying to steal critical personal information from unknowing consumers. According to Better Business Bureau’s 2017 Most Reported Scams Tracker, the top three were phishing scams, sweepstakes scams and government grant scams.
Often called “email scams,” phishing scams are typically committed using email messages that appear to come from legitimate businesses or known email addresses. These emails often induce panic and trick you into clicking on a link. From there, you are convinced to divulge private information that the scammer uses to commit identity theft. Phishing is the easiest and quickest way for thieves to collect personal data and commit identity theft. These scams also now appear in text and instant messages.
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And, often called “phone scams,” sweepstakes and government grant scams are usually conducted by telephone and include a claim that the recipient of the call just won $5,000, a tax refund, a fabulous diamond ring or luxury vacation. The trouble is, you do not remember entering anything, and now the caller wants you to pay a fee using prepaid options such as gift cards, calling cards, wire transfers or bitcoin to receive the prize.
Data Breaches at Large Corporations
Several news stories broke this year about data breaches at large corporations that customers thought they could trust. The Equifax breach and Paypal‘s compromised consumer list are significant events that have many people nervous about how their information is shared.
Experts are predicting that next year, consumers will challenge the banking industry to establish quicker fraud and risk detection to protect their information against cyber thieves. Customer and employee education should improve awareness of the latest attacks and scams, so training is an especially important measure for business owners to take.
How to Protect Yourself Against Scams and Identity Theft
As many Americans set goals for the new year, unfortunately, scammers do as well. BBB recommends making it a goal to protect your personal information. Here are a few steps to safeguard yourself against scams and identity theft:
1) Think Before Clicking
Clicking on links that appear in random emails is not always a smart move. When receiving emails from unfamiliar sources, hover over email addresses and embedded links that you are unsure of before clicking on them. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are the email domains such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or other free accounts?
- Do the links lead to an unfamiliar website?
- Will the email start with “Dear Customer” instead of a personalized greeting?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be a phishing scam. When in doubt, contact the alleged source of emails or messages (your bank, credit card company, government agency, business) instead of clicking what could be a dangerous source. Once you confirm an email is not from a valid source, delete the email then empty the trash in your email box. Moreover, remember, these scams can also be received via text or instant message
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2) Sound too good to be true? It probably is.
Listen carefully to calls that request money from you. If you have genuinely won something and entered for the prize, you should not have to pay for it. This includes paying taxes, shipping and handling charges or processing fees. These are all terms that are used to obtain something else from you – like a credit card number or checking account number. If you hear the words wire transfer, gift cards, calling cards or bitcoin – hang up. This is a sure way to lose money and have no way of tracing the transaction or retrieving your money. Don’t fall for it.
3) Cyber Thieves are lurking into the New Year
Keeping all the software on your Internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – up to date to reduce the risk of infection from malware. Also, having strong and unique passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. Consider making your password a sentence that is at least 12 characters long or even a sentence (for example, “I love jazz music.”).
Reviewing your bank profiles and security settings, setting-up text or email notifications for all your debit and credit card activity, and checking your balances daily can help you to identify unusual activity. When shopping online, use a credit card instead of a debit card. A credit card provides more protection for you, and the charges will be easier to dispute than a debit card. Remember, NEVER use free Wi-Fi to check your bank accounts or any sensitive information.
About the Author
Sandra Guile, Community Outreach Specialist for Better Business Bureau, provided the content for this article. She works extensively to educate the Cincinnati community about ethical marketplace practices. For additional information, contact Sandra at 513-421-3015.
The Voice of Black Cincinnati is a media company designed to educate, recognize and create opportunities for African Americans in the region. Visit our homepage, explore other articles, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook for local news, events, job postings, scholarships and a database of local Black-owned businesses.