It happens more than you think.
Have you ever received unsolicited, automated phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize?
Have you received an email stating that you have won a prize or all-inclusive trip?
Has anyone ever called you and told you that you were in trouble for not properly filing your taxes with the IRS?
Each of these scenarios is a common way that scammers will try to steal your information and use it for their own purposes. If you haven’t read about it or heard in the news, scams and attempts at fraud such as these are becoming increasingly more common. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were more than 1.4 million reports of fraud in the United States. This was an increase of 38% from the previous year. The Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau both have some great tips for how to avoid scams like the examples we listed above. We wanted to write about some of the most useful ones here in this blog post.
Don’t pay for anything upfront
You can receive calls or emails from people telling you they can offer debt relief, a loan, or even a prize because you meet certain qualifications. Always be wary of offers like this, because they often ask for some sort of payment upfront. If it’s an unsolicited offer, it is likely fraudulent. Never pay for any of these services before anything is provided to you and never hand out your personal information to individuals who tell you something that seems too good to be true. It probably is.
Hang up on robocalls
Some people receive automated calls — or “robocalls” — every day or every week. These calls can often come from numbers that look similar to yours, with the same area code and even the same first three digits after the area code. Robocalls are illegal, and if you receive one you should hang up immediately. Most likely, whatever is being offered is bogus or fraudulent.
Don’t deposit a check from someone you don’t know
You might receive an offer from someone claiming to be a part of a business who will send you a check and ask for money to be wired back to them. Banks are required to make funds available from a check within a few days, but the bank will likely not know if a check is fake for much longer than that. Again, a good rule of thumb is that if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
Sometimes an individual will try and represent themselves as someone that you know or work with, such as a business, friend or family member, or even government official. Remember, the IRS never makes phone calls to tell you that you need to pay more in taxes. They also will not threaten you with a lawsuit over the phone. The more elderly population is especially vulnerable to live-person calls such as these. With the rise of social media, especially Facebook, it can become easy for people to know who you are and who your relatives are. People might target elderly individuals posing as a grandson or granddaughter in need of financial help. Always think before sending money or giving out information to anyone.
Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails
Scam artists and hackers are creative with how they represent themselves online. If you receive an email in your inbox that is unexpected, do not open any attachments or click any links before checking that the email is legitimate. Scammers can send emails as if they are coming from a legitimate business, so even if the email looks familiar like it is coming from a source you trust, be careful before clicking or opening anything. Links or attachments can download malware onto your computer and lead to theft of your personal information.
Don’t be pressured to act immediately
Although some high-pressure businesses will push you to make a quick decision, if an offer or pitch is not coming from someone you know and trust, be wary. Always take the time to discuss any monetary decisions with a trusted advisor or family member.
Work with local businesses
An easy way to avoid being tricked out of your money is to work with businesses that are in your area. Internet or not, there are plenty of scenarios where individuals or businesses can sell you a product and you are either left without anything to show or have no way of getting back in touch with them if there are any issues. “Storm chasers” are a common problem in the insurance industry, where roofers from hundreds of miles away go to a town recently hit by hail to drum up business. Even if they replace your roof, it is likely you will never be able to get in touch with them again.
Be careful of what you share on social media
Often times what you share and post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are public. If you have any social media accounts, check your settings and make sure that your security is as restrictive as possible. Sites like Facebook will allow you to hide your information from people who you aren’t connected with. Additionally, never post your location or personal information. Anything that gives a potential scammer more information can put you at risk for identity fraud or any other scams.
Check out the Better Business Bureau’s 10 Steps to Avoid Scams and the Federal Trade Commission’s 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud for complete lists and more tips on how to be stay safe online and protect your personal information!
Eckburg Insurance Group is the largest home and auto insurance provider in northern Illinois. We can cover all your home, auto, business, and life insurance needs. Our dedicated staff, made up almost entirely of men and women who were raised in our community, works tirelessly every day to keep you protected. Call us today at (815) 877-4100 or click here for a quote!