In support of National Consumer Protection, last week we covered internet merchandise scams, phishing/spoofing, fake prizes, sweepstakes, or free gifts, fake check scams, and advance fee loans, credit arrangers. We continue the top 10 scams reported in 2019:
6. Romance scams/sweetheart swindles
The set-up: Someone you’ve met online on a dating website, online forum or via social media quickly develops a friendship or romantic relationship with you. Eventually, they ask for money for a visit, to cover an unexpected emergency, or some other reason.
How to avoid it: Don't leave protected dating website messaging platforms for unprotected text or instant messaging chats. Never send money to someone you’ve only met online or talked to over the phone.
7. Recovery/refund scams
The set-up: If you’ve lost money in a scam, someone may claim to be able to recover those losses for you. The only catch it that you must pay a fee or hand over sensitive personal information like bank account numbers or grant access to your computer in order to recover your losses.
How to avoid it: You should never pay money or give up personal information in order to recover fraud losses. Anyone who claims to be able to help you recover your losses in exchange for a fee is just trying to scam you.
8. Computer equipment/software
The set-up: Also known as the tech support scam, a caller may claim to be with a well-known software company like Microsoft or an anti-virus company and have information that your computer is infected with malware. They request remote access to your computer in order to “diagnose” the problem. They may then urge you to buy an expensive tech support solution to “fix” the problem.
How to avoid it: If someone calls you unsolicited offering tech support, it’s almost certainly a scam. Scary pop-ups on your phone or computer may also urge you to call a phone number to get the problem fixed. Don’t fall for those either as they are simply a lure to get you paying for tech support you probably don’t need.
9. Investment related scams
The set-up: Someone may offer you “guaranteed” returns with little or no risk in exchange for a big up-front investment. Investment in gold coins, precious metals, Bitcoin, real estate, or Internet startups are often used to entice unwary investors.
How to avoid it: Investigate anyone offering to make an investment on your behalf. Get documentation about the track record of the investment and check to make sure the “advisor” is registered with the state or federal government. If they pressure you to make a decision right away, chances are that it’s a scam.
10. Family/friend imposter
The set-up: A caller claims to be a family member or friend in trouble (or someone helping them, like a lawyer, doctor, or policeman). They urge the victim to send money to help out their loved one. The scammer may have details about your friend or family member (likely gleaned from social media).
How to avoid it: Hang up the phone and call your friend or family member yourself. If they don’t answer, try another relative who knows them to verify what’s going on. Any urgent request to send money without verification is almost certainly a scam.
Even if you’ve studied up on the most prevalent scams, we’re all vulnerable. If you’ve been approached by a scammer or lost money, report the scam. You can help other consumers avoid these and other scams by filing a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We share complaints with our network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
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