scam/ skam/

noun. a dishonest scheme; a fraud.

According to the FBI, Americans were hit by an unprecedented rise in cybercrime during the pandemic, with nearly 850,000 reports to the FBI and losses surpassing $6.9 billion.

It seems like every time you turn around, a new scam is making the rounds and the goal is the same—to get you to provide your personal information so they can steal your data, money, or both.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. The most obvious is not to share your personal information like your bank account number, SSN, or date of birth. Common sense right? Yes and no. Criminals are continuously developing new and sophisticated ways to capture the data they need from you. The question now is how to recognize a scam?

Scams target everyone

Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, all of us may be vulnerable at some time.

Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or personal details. 

Learning how to recognize scammers’ tactics is the best way to avoid being scammed.  Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to tell for certain if a request is legitimate. The things to consider as signs a company or person is trustworthy are some of the same things scammers imitate.

Reduce your risk of being scammed

  • Be suspicious. Scammers work hard to appear trustworthy. Consider the request before you engage.
  • Don’t trust unexpected contact. Scams often come through as an unexpected phone call, text or email. Always take steps to know who you’re dealing with.
  • Do your research. Use Google or if it’s from a company or individual you are familiar with, contact them.
  • Resist demands to act quickly. Anyone presenting a legitimate request will allow you time to consider your response. If you feel under pressure, take some time — or turn it down.
  • Never open attachments or click on links in emails or texts if words or images make you feel wary. You have nothing to lose by ignoring or deleting the email.
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors. Some scams are good at imitating the communication style of reputable companies, but many scam correspondence will include obvious mistakes.
  • Don’t share personal information. Scammers number one priority is to discover bank details and passwords. A legitimate business will never ask for such information via phone, text or email.
  • It’s not secure. Always look for the https (not http) and the padlock icon in the address bar to ensure there’s a secure connection between you and the website. This is not a guarantee that it is legit, however, so do not rely on this alone, as some scam websites are beginning to use https too.
  • Offers you something that sounds too good to be true. If online shopping deal, a prize for winning a competition that you have not entered, or an unclaimed gift card sounds good to be true, it probably is.
  • Asks you to use a non-secure payment method. How are they asking you to pay? Scammers often ask you to pay by non-secure payment methods such as money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These methods are difficult to track and difficult to recover. Always look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.

Remember that scammers will:

  • Try to gain trust by claiming to be from a well-known business or impersonating a known contact
  • Suggest their own verification procedures, like going to websites they have created or calling numbers they provide to you
  • Appeal to your emotions to get what they want
  • Create a sense of urgency to get you to make decisions without thinking.

Remember that you have the right to be impolite and to be firm to keep yourself safe from scams. It’s perfectly fine to say no outright if you have a bad feeling about something. Bottom line, if you think it’s a scam, it probably is.

For more information: Read Fraud or Stickley on Security Articles, explore Mid Oregon’s Security and Fraud Center, visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Information Webpage

You can also check out the Preventing ID Theft: Information from our webinar, presented by the Digital Forensics Team at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.