By Peter Boys, CAFA
The Financial Coach
Today’s scammers are moving away from email and now taking to social networks but are still keeping up with the phone scams. Watch out for ones promoting the “next big thing” or anything that’s “going to the top of the charts”. Don’t respond to direct messages about investments or stocks that come to you via social networks or text messages.
The Enterprise Fee Scheme: Things like the “Nigerian Letter” are an unsolicited request for modest financial assistance in exchange for a great deal of money. The central feature of these scams is to ask for an upfront payment to cover transaction costs, whether to “unlock” a larger sum of money or facilitate a transfer of shares. The fraudster doesn’t deliver as promised. Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face.
Catphishing: A fraudster pretends to be someone they are not, on an online dating or social media website. The objective is to ask you to wire them money or credit card information due to some contrived emergency. Check Google to see if they are using a stock photo and always be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online.
Astroturfing: Posting fake reviews on websites like Google or Yelp. This is done to boost a company’s profile online using supposedly unbiased consumer review websites. Check what others are saying about the company plus other review websites and on BBB.org to get a second opinion. Wherever possible, deal with local businesses.
Affinity Fraud: These are investment scams (e.g. Ponzi schemes) that happen where you’d least expect it. Right in your own community, with people you know and trust like religious institutions, colleagues or association connections and even friends and, sometimes, family. The fraudsters’ business is lying to people to gain their trust and steal their money. Do your own homework, don’t fall for guarantees and get everything in writing.
Curbers: Unlicensed dealers who sell junk cars from parking lots. Curbers don’t disclose vehicle’s history to buyers, often hiding liens, accident damage or rolled back odometers. The car can sometimes be stolen as well.
Lottery Scams: In this digital age, lottery scams that come through the mail may seem like a thing of the past but Consumer Protection continues to get calls about this scam that often targets seniors. Never pay up-front for any prize, as any legitimate prize offering never requires you to pay anything. Be suspicious of free gifts
The Unknown Caller: You may receive a call that your computer security has been compromised and that they can help you, or that your grandchild is in jail and in need of money. In either case, it is a cold call that has come out of the blue and is asking you to take action quickly and send money now. Don’t be pressured to act quickly.
Pretender Scam – A business receives an invoice which appears to be from an “authorized” service provider for things like online advertising, webhosting, website domain registration or trademark copywriting services. In all cases, the service is misrepresented and the business is often threatened that they will be put into a collections’ service if they do not pay the invoice.
These are just a few of the scams out there and new ones are popping up all the time. Protect yourself from scams by not sending money to someone you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to hang up on someone and call the company back through the business’ number. Don’t believe everything you see, even caller ID can be faked. Most importantly, never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited.