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Scams Evolve

Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels; any of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some point in our lives.

Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products and services and major events (such as the pandemic) to create believable stories that will convince you to do the one thing you wouldn’t normally do: Give them your money or personal information.

When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, whether it’s through:

  • Phone
  • Mail
  • Email
  • In person
  • On a social networking site

Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Send those calls you don’t recognize to voicemail. If someone really wants to speak to you, they will leave you a message. Scammers normally don’t.

Common Scams

Here are some common scams to be aware of and how you can protect yourself:

Romance Scams

Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. They may reach out to you through social media, a dating app, or through email. Romance scams made over $304 Million in 2020, up 50% from 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The scammer builds up a relationship using the illusion of romance or a close friendship and preys on those emotions to get you to give them money or account information. By the time you have realized what has happened, the scammer has gone silent, unresponsive, taking what they can. 

  • Watch what you share. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to target you. Be suspicious if you receive a friend request or a direct private message from someone you don’t know.
  • Don’t share inappropriate photos or financial account information as these could be used later to extort you.
  • Be suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why they can’t or needs financial assistance in order for the meet up to happen.
  • Be aware that if you decide to communicate with this person off the dating site, the dating site can no longer monitor it.
  • These scammers will invest a lot of time – months and months – if they think they’ll get a payoff.
  • Try reverse-image search of the profile pictures to see if the pictures are associated with another name. Scammers will often use the same pictures in their scams.  

Telemarketing Travel Scams

These fraudsters usually claim to be representatives from a well-known company to gain your trust and tell you that you’re eligible to win a vacation or a trip to a certain destination. The call could also be a computer-generated message. Telemarketing travel scam operations include skilled salespeople, often with years of experience selling products and services over the phone. According to the FTC, telemarketing scams like this one cost consumers millions of dollars each month.

  • Look out for how the word “offer” is used.
  • If you are pressured to make an immediate decision and not given an option to call the representative back, then you should question the validity of the offer.
  • Consider asking the representative some questions about the company and ask them to send information to you about the company. If the representative is vague or gets upset about providing company information or is unable to answer questions, this may be a red flag of a potential scam.

Elder Scams

According to the FBI, every year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud, including romance, lottery and government impersonations scams, to name a few. Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting, friendly and polite.

While the payout for a fraudster can be a lot due to the age of the victim, it is more of the ease of gaining trust to execute the crime without much questioning. Seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they might be too ashamed at having been scammed.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office. You are also encouraged to keep original documentation, emails, faxes and logs of all communications.

A+ Tip: If you have concerns about scams and your personal information security, feel free to reach out to one of our trained, experienced member advisors at Affinity Plus.