With cybersecurity awareness on the rise, it’s important to stay up to date on the most common fraud scams that take advantage of innocent consumers daily. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recorded around 2.8 million consumer fraud reports just last year. Here are 10 common fraud scams you should be aware of to ensure your safety and security.

1. Fake Shopping Sites

As online shopping becomes more accessible and quicker than ever, fraudsters see our comfort with plugging credit card information online as an opportunity. While virtually every store has an online shopping platform, make sure the one you’re browsing is legitimate. Fraudsters can often pose as larger traffic websites like Amazon, Walmart, or Target.

Some things to look for while shopping online:

  • The address bar on your browser will let you know if it’s a secure website. Make sure the padlock is present combined with HTTPS at the beginning of a link. The S in HTTPS stands for secure, meaning the site is safe for browsing.
  • Pay attention to URL spellings. Fraudsters have to modify the website address just slightly enough to go unnoticed. It leads to poor spelling and grammatical errors like Amaz0n.com or UPS.c0m.

2. Card Fraud

While card fraud is an unfortunate reality, keeping an eye out for skimming machines will help safeguard your money. A skimming machine is a device fraudsters use to steal card information by using the magnetic stripe on your card. Scammers often place these seemingly authentic devices on card readers like ATMs or gas pumps.

To ensure you’re not falling victim to this scam, gently pull on the card reader; if it’s a skimmer, it will easily come off. When you’re sure the card reader is safe, it’s recommended to cover your hand when entering your pin. This is another way to help safeguard your money and protect you from card fraud.

Social Engineering Fraud

Social engineering fraud is a broad term that refers to various scams used by fraudsters to exploit a person’s trust to obtain money or sensitive information.

Some of the most common social engineering scams:

3. Unrealistic job offers/opportunities

Fraudsters reach out through social media with illegitimate job offers that require you to deposit a fraudulent or stolen check and send a portion of the funds back to them. It may take several days before the check is rejected, and by that point the scammer has already cut off all contact, leaving you with a negative account balance.

4. Romance scams

Fraudsters pose as a romantic interest. Typically they try to gain your trust and affection first, before presenting a story of personal hardship that requires you to send them money for medical expense, travel issues or more.

5. Phishing

Fraudsters position themselves as significant and reputable company representatives by sending emails with insecure links to obtain personal information like social security numbers or bank account details.

Agency Scams

When facing adversity like inflation, unaffordable housing, or pandemic-related job loss, scammers use this as an opportunity to target their insecurities. They will often pose as different organizations or government agencies to appear legitimate.

Some common organization and government agency scams:

6. Cryptocurrency scams

While there are endless scams around cryptocurrency, one of the most popular is scammers posing as crypto exchange support staff. With various phishing attempts, scammers use the company’s trustworthy reputation to access your funds.

Be sure to verify the legitimacy of the staff member. It’s wise to hang up and call back using a publicly listed phone number. If this person truly works for the crypto exchange company, it will be easy to locate them.

7. Donation or charity scams

Fraudsters prey on your compassion and willingness to donate money to a specific cause or person in need. Fraudsters will often use stolen photos of real people in need, along with nonprofit logos as a way of seeming legitimate. Instead of following an unsolicited, emailed link, go to your chosen charity’s website to give or visit Charity Navigator to browse a list of nonprofits.

For example, Colorado Gives Day and Arizona Gives Day offer a well vetted list of nonprofits that remain in good standing. 

8. Investment opportunity scams

Often, fraudsters will use false or misleading information to convince others to sell or buy an investment. Commonly known as a Ponzi or pyramid scheme, it promises low risk but high returns and isn’t registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Some common red flags include:

  • Statement errors
  • Difficulty cashing out your investments
  • Unlicensed brokers

9. Student loan scams

This scam takes advantage of one’s willingness to improve their student loan rate or debt consolidation in exchange for an upfront fee or percentage of loan settlement.

Scammers may ask that you provide sensitive information like your Federal Student Aid ID and password. It should trigger a red flag immediately; the Department of Education nor your loan servicer will ever ask for this information.

10. Fraudulent IRS threats

Similarly, fraudsters will call from an unknown number posing as an IRS agent with the hopes of stealing taxpayer money or personal information. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media to request personal or financial information.

Here are some things the IRS will never do:

  • Call to demand immediate payment via gift card or wire transfer
  • Threaten to involve law enforcement
  • Call unexpectedly about a tax refund

What should you do if you receive these fraudulent calls?

  • Record the number and hang up immediately
  • Report the call to TIGTA by calling 800-366-4484
  • Report the number to phishing@irs.gov

We take fraud seriously at FirstBank. That’s why we offer numerous resources to keep you up-to-date on the latest fraud protection tips and tricks. Learn more by visiting our fraud page.

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