If you’re like us, chances are you’ve heard stories about people who’ve lost thousands of dollars because they believed that the crown prince of Nigeria needed their help cashing a check. And if you’re really like us, chances are that you thought to yourself something along the lines of “That could never happen to me – I’m way too smart for that!” And you might have thrown in an eye roll for good measure.
Well, we’re not going to get into a debate about how smart you are but based on a government report we found, just being smart isn’t all it takes to avoid being scammed.
The report we’re talking about is the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 2019 edition. Published annually by the Federal Trade Commission, this book contains data on reports the FTC gets “from consumers about problems they experience in the marketplace.” As you might imagine, they get a lot of reports – over 3.2 million in 2019 alone. But what you might not imagine is how many of those are complaints about attempted or successful fraud: 1.7 million, or 53 percent of all reports!
Some other sobering numbers:
- There were over 647,000 reported “imposter” scams (romance scams, fake government employee scams, relative in distress scams, etc.) with $667 million in reported losses.
- While money was lost in just 23% of reported fraud cases, the total lost was more than $1.9 billion - $293 million more than in 2018.
- Wire transfers were the most frequent payment method to fraudsters, totaling more than $439 million.
- Nearly three-quarters of fraud attempts came by telephone.
And in what might be a surprise to many, the age group where fraud attempts were most likely to be successful wasn’t senior citizens, it was those between the ages of 20 and 29!
That’s the bad news; the good news is that if you pay attention, many scams are easy to spot – and once you spot one, you can avoid becoming a victim. And since we’re all about helping you take care of your money, we made a list!
You might be getting scammed if:
- A company you’ve never dealt with acts like they know you
If a company you have no dealings with contacts you by email, phone, text or some other method, and asks you for money, there’s a good chance they’re not on the up and up. If you’re not sure, hang up, go to their website, get their number and call them. If you really owe them money, someone there will know. But even then, don’t take their word for it; demand proof.
- Page Anchor: https://www.bancfirst.tv/fiscal-fitness-center/maybe-it-could-happen-to-me/#Tip2 A financial institution asks for your PIN or other private info
You’ve probably seen this in writing before: “We will never ask you for your (username, password, PIN, account number, etc).” Now, if you’re calling them, a bank might ask for some identifying information to make sure it’s you, but if they are the ones reaching out, they won’t. If they do, hang up.
- Page Anchor: https://www.bancfirst.tv/fiscal-fitness-center/maybe-it-could-happen-to-me/#Tip3 You get an emale or leter with bad grammer or speling
We’re not sure why they haven’t figured this out yet, but many scammers seem to be really bad at grammar and spelling, so if you get something claiming to be from a professional organization but doesn’t look professional, don’t respond – and don’t click any links!
- You’re being rushed
Fraudsters know that given enough time to think about it, most people will figure out that they’re being scammed. To avoid that, they will often frame their requests as being an emergency (“If you don’t act today we’re going to turn you in to the FBI.).”
- Something doesn’t make sense
You’ve probably paid taxes before – did you ever have to go by a gift card and send it somewhere? We know, it’s scary when someone claiming to be from the government tells you you’re in trouble, but even in extreme situations things generally make sense.
- It sounds too good to be true
Remember those lottery commercials, “You can’t win if you don’t play?” They’re true – if you didn’t enter a contest, you didn’t win it. If a foreign government needed US funds, it would go to a bank. If you never knew you had an Aunt Zelda, she probably didn’t leave you any money in her will. If someone you just met professes undying love for you, it’s probably a lie.
Some of these might seem obvious, but the truth is that when we’re under pressure, or money is involved, it’s easy to fall for what ought to be recognized as outlandish claims or suggestions – it happened nearly 400,000 times last year. So stay calm, remember our list, and don’t be a victim!