Avoid online scams: 6 types of fraud to watch out for
Scammers are always finding new ways to try to get between you, your money and your personal information. As always, the best way to avoid online scams is to educate yourself.
The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we do almost everything – and made it harder to avoid online scams.
You don’t have to fall victim to identity theft or someone stealing money from your account. Learn more about some of the biggest scams happening right now so you know when to hang up the phone or delete the email/text.
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- Protect your usernames and passwords
- Bitcoin scams
- Gift card scams
- Stimulus check scams
- Vaccine scams
- General COVID-19 scams
Arsenal Credit Union, and several other financial institutions across the country, have been seeing a sharp increase in text messages that look like this:
This particular scammer wants you to believe that your debit or credit card was used without your permission. They will then ask for your username/password to access to your account. If you give up this information, they could potentially login to your account and transfer money out through a peer-to-peer transaction. This is an example of a fraudulent text, but you could receive the same message over the phone or through email.
Stay safe. Never give out your online banking username or password if someone randomly solicits you for it. Arsenal will not ask for this information. We already have it on file.
You can keep better track of your card accounts, monitor fraud and set up alerts and controls by downloading our free CardKey app.
Most of you may not have any investments in cryptocurrency, but its popularity has skyrocketed in the past few years. That said, Bitcoin and other digital currency scams have also skyrocketed. Watch out for these common scams provided by The Balance.
- Fake Bitcoin exchanges: These are fraudulent exchanges that steal personal information and drain Bitcoin accounts.
- Fake cryptocurrency: It seems like new cryptocurrencies pop up all the time. Make sure it is the real thing before investing. The people behind the My Big Coin cryptocurrency stole the money from their investors and transferred it to personal accounts.
- “IRS” fraud: Just like with traditional taxes, the IRS will never call, text or reach out to you on social media claiming that you owe money from your Bitcoin investments.
- Malware: Watch out for emails that claim they have software available for mining Bitcoin. This software most likely contains malware that will steal your information when you install it.
- Social media scams: In 2020, Twitter was hacked and celebrity accounts from Elon Musk and Bill Gates were claiming to be giving away Bitcoin. When Twitter users sent the required information, hackers stole their Bitcoin. If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
Gift cards are as good as cash at participating retailers. If someone asks you to go to Target, Walmart, Walgreens or anywhere else so you can pay them with them, it’s definitely a scam. These scammers will ask for the gift card number and the PIN on the back, then leave you high and dry.
Some stores now have systems in place that prevent you from buying too many gift cards. But scams can still happen. Ignore anyone who claims to need gift card money for the following reasons:
- They’re claiming to be from a utility company and will cut off your service if you don’t pay.
- Someone is claiming you won a sweepstakes (that you probably didn’t enter) and they need payment for a setup fee through a gift card.
- If someone is buying something from you and sends a check over the purchase price and asks you to send the different back through a gift card.
Americans should be expecting their third stimulus as early as March 13. With all of this money going directly to American citizens, scammers will be on the prowl. Here are a few tips to remember so you keep your entire payment and avoid online scams.
- The IRS will always refer to the check as your “economic impact payment.” The term “stimulus check” is sort of just slang for this. This is an easy red flag to spot a scammer.
- As always, never respond to anyone who calls, texts or emails, claiming to be from the IRS.
- You probably don’t need to do anything to receive your check. If you received the other two via direct deposit, just hold tight
- If you’re asked to pay money to receive your payment faster, don’t do it.
There’s still a bit of uncertainty on when everyone will be able to get a vaccine. This makes it a ripe way for scammers to take advantage of people. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a helpful infographic about avoiding COVID-19 vaccination scams.
- You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine. That’s a scam.
- You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine. That’s a scam.
- Nobody legit will call about the vaccine and ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number. That’s a scam.
Ignore any vaccine offers that say different or ask for personal or financial information.
The FTC also offers some helpful advice to help avoid online scams related to the pandemic.
- Legitimate contact tracers will need your health information, not access to your bank account or other financial information.
- Don’t respond to calls, texts or emails about stimulus checks.
- If someone says you can buy a cure, ignore it immediately.
- At-home test kits are still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. You will have to visit a doctor or other testing site for this (but good news is that test results come back quickly now).
- Never donate money using cash, gift card or a P2P app.