Short version of this article: we have seen an increasing number of our clients encounter attempts at scamming them out of money. If you receive a suspicious or odd phone call or email, do not take any action (such as buying a gift card or providing any of your information) until you talk to a trusted loved one – or one of us here at The Wealth Group.
In today's technological age, keeping our information and finances safe is no longer as simple as using a locked file cabinet or a safe deposit box.
The convenience and brilliance of technology is a two-sided coin. While financial transactions used to take place face-to-face, we now communicate mainly with screens, trusting that we know who is behind them. As too many have experienced, this anonymity is constantly capitalized on by malicious players who do not have your best interest in mind.
As your team of advisors, we care deeply about your financial security. Oftentimes, scammers succeed by getting you to act quickly before you have the chance to think about what is being asked of you. Having awareness will help you to realize what’s happening before it’s too late.
Below are several tips for protecting yourself against scams, along with a summary of a few common tactics to help you recognize when you are being targeted.
- If a phone call or email seems suspicious, it probably is.
If someone is threatening you or demanding that you give them money or buy a gift card for them, resist the sense of urgency and do not entertain the demand.
- Always verify identity.
If you receive a request for money or personal information from a person claiming to be a family member or an individual that you have a relationship with, it is best practice to pick up the phone and call that person yourself. When you are the one initiating the contact, you can be sure of who is on the other end.
- Never be afraid to ask additional questions of the demanding party.
Someone looking to scam you will use fear and emotions to make you feel guilty for questioning them. If they are truly an individual or a company that you trust, they will be pleased that you are taking precautions to protect yourself.
- A quick Google search can do wonders.
Many popular scams are used widely. Sometimes a tricky scam can be made obvious with a 5-second query.
Some common tactics to look out for:
- Notification of prize winnings that you did not enter to win
You will be told that you need to provide certain information before the “prize” can be sent. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! There is no motivation for the sender other than to steal your personal information.
- Posing as a family member in trouble and/or someone else claiming that a family member is in trouble
This tactic plays to your emotions and can be especially deceptive by how much the person knows about you. As mentioned above, do not hand over any money or information without first calling that person or someone close to that person about the situation.
Some scammers will tell you that they are from some agency or another and demand that you make a payment with a gift card. Scammers like gift cards because they are like cash—once you hand over the information, that money is gone. No legitimate business or government agency will insist on payment via gift card.
- Warranty calls
One of the most popular scams in recent years—robo-callers try to get you to sign up for a warranty (most likely for your car) that doesn’t actually exist.
- Failed delivery notifications
You receive a text or email appearing to be from a package delivery service saying that you must reschedule delivery for a nominal fee. This is simply a trick to get your credit card information.
- Debt collection scams
Someone contacts you claiming that you owe a debt. These people are often very pushy, ask for information that a legitimate creditor would know, and refuse to give information about their “collection agency.” Knowing what you owe is one of the best ways to protect yourself in this situation.
- Voicemails from the “IRS”
Dealings with the IRS can often be intimidating. Scammers know this and may leave threatening voicemails to make demands about your money, claiming there will be consequences if action is not taken quickly. The IRS details their contact policies here to help you recognize when you are being targeted.
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks up your computer and demands that a ransom be paid to regain access. Keeping your security software up to date can help you avoid becoming a victim, but if you do find yourself in this situation, do not pay the fine. There is no guarantee that your computer will be restored. The FBI provides some tips for this situation.
These are only a few of the approaches that may be used to compromise your finances, and there are sure to be more all the time. Be protective of your information and form the habit of verifying identities, and you will be better equipped to combat whatever techniques pop up next.
Your personal finances are just that: personal to you. You have the most at stake, so don’t let anyone make you feel as though you are being too careful.
We remain vigilant about your financial security, and hope that this article equips you to do so too.