It never ends. Wherever there are people, there are people trying to scam them out of their personal information and their money — and the scammers’ strategies change all the time.
Most of the latest scams making their rounds in 2023 have roots in previous swindles, but the fraudsters have changed them up enough to catch unsuspecting consumers off guard. Learn more about these new attacks and how to protect yourself from being scammed.
Google Voice Scams
Scammers target people who post things for sale on sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. They also prey on people who post looking for help finding their lost pet, according to AARP. This scam works like this: The scammers contact you and say they want to buy the item you’re selling or that they found your pet.
But before they commit to buying your item, or returning your pet, they feign hesitation. They might say they’ve heard about fake online listings and want to verify that you’re a real person or the pet’s true owner. They tell you that you are about to get a verification code from Google Voice sent to you and ask you to read it back. Then they use that information to set up a Google Voice account in your name — and go on to scam other people using your information.
Coronavirus and Government Program Scams
Government relief programs are vulnerable to scams, and those implemented in response to the pandemic are no exception. Several rounds of stimulus payments, student loan forgiveness and new and expanded tax credits all provide fodder for scammers looking to prey on the vulnerable, according to Experian.
USA.gov, the official online portal for U.S. government information and services, says common COVID-19-related scams center around fraudsters collecting personal information to perform identity theft and money swindles. Posing as IRS agents or other government officials, for example, scammers offer to advance funds from a tax refund or benefit check for a fee and then fail to deliver. Other scams mainly target Medicare recipients with offers of COVID-19 testing or vaccines in order to obtain the victims’ personal and financial information.
Tax-related scams and consumer alerts are always a concern for the IRS, which maintains a page on its site, found here, dedicated to providing information to the thousands of people who have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams.
Gift Card Scams
Gift cards are popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy… and they have fewer protections for buyers, compared to some other payment options. They’re like cash — once the card is used, the money on it is gone.
There are two main gift card theft scenarios. The first is a gift card payment scam, where a criminal convinces a consumer to pay a fake financial obligation by purchasing gift cards and sharing the numbers off the backs with the scammer. Another involves zero-value gift cards, where the scammer pays a consumer with a gift card that has no funds on it.
As cryptocurrencies continue to grow in popularity, so do crypto scams. These can take different forms but often involve fake prizes, contests, giveaways or early investment opportunities. The scammers may impersonate celebrities or popular cryptocurrency websites to lure victims into sending them money, sharing login information or “investing” in a project.
Other times, fraudsters pretending to be government officials or sweepstakes agents request cryptocurrency ATM payments for fake fees or bills. The cryptocurrency bought at the ATMs gets sent to untraceable digital wallets, leaving you with no recourse to get your money back.
Employment scams use enticing, hard-to-detect approaches to target people who’ve been out of work. Some scammers take a slow approach, offering job interviews for a seemingly legitimate business. They then collect personal information from your application and onboarding forms or from resumes on job websites like Indeed or ZipRecruiter.
Other scams promise guaranteed or easy income — if you purchase their program or buy equipment or training.
Fake Amazon Employee Scams
Swindlers will impersonate any type of retail employee but, according to AARP, the Federal Trade Commission reports that one-third of business imposter fraud is committed by people claiming to be Amazon employees. Because Amazon is the biggest retail entity, people trust these “Amazon” fraudsters.
Aside from common scams in the form of e-mails and text messages that contain links to websites that look like they may be from Amazon.com but aren’t, recent consumer alerts have detailed rampant scams involving a fake Amazon employee phishing for consumers’ credit card or bank account information to commit identity theft. The caller will say there’s a problem with your account, a failed credit card payment or a lost package. They will then ask you for your credit card and account details to access your personal information. They may also request remote access to your computer to help solve the problem.
P2P Payment Scams
P2P, or peer-to-peer payment scams, use apps like Zelle, Venmo and Apple Pay. Because these platforms are fast and convenient, they are gaining a loyal following among consumers and fraudsters alike.
These money thefts can take several forms, including requests for payment via a P2P payment service for a product, the promise of a (fake) check or as part of a dating site/romance scam. Victims of these types of scams mistakenly think that P2P systems have similar protections as a debit or credit card since many are affiliated with banks. However, P2P transactions take seconds and often cannot be cancelled, so it is extremely difficult to get money refunded.
Romance scammers will steal more than your heart. Dating apps pride themselves on being private, which works in the favor of a scammer who wants to remain relatively undetected while gaining your trust.
This increasingly popular scam among cyber criminals involves people contacting victims online, lavishing them with attention — and then asking them for money. A lot of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, as reported by Experian, people lost $547 million to romance scams in 2021. Some scammers will attempt to steal an individual’s identity to build multiple profiles throughout dating sites and use them to lure victims.
Again, fraudsters will try anything to get your money. But they can’t get it if you follow a few basic security measures to protect yourself from the latest and most common scams.
- Always be skeptical when a stranger calls you.
- Enable multifactor authentication for all your accounts.
- Don’t give any personal or financial information upon an unexpected request.
- Research companies before making a purchase or donation.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately.
- Be careful with your phone and block all unwanted calls and messages.
- Don’t pay someone you don’t know personally with a gift card or money transfer, and don’t refund or overpay anyone using these payment methods.
When it comes to criminals trying to get your personal information and money, use common sense and continue to monitor your identity.
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