We live in a world in which pretty much anyone can be scammed. At BBB, we see it every day, as our world speeds up; as we become more and more reliant on online communications; as scammers get smarter and more creative. Good people get scammed every day because they are trusting, because they are not paying enough attention, because they are in a hurry, and because they do not know what forms a scam might take.
That is why BBB spends so much time educating our communities about scams – because knowledge is the best weapon against scammers. The more we all know, and the more we are all paying attention, the less scammers will succeed
This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but the following is a list of some of the best tips BBB has seen for avoiding scams. If we would all follow these tips, many more scams would be foiled, every single day
- Never click a link in an e-mail message if you are not expecting it. Even if the e-mail looks like it is coming from someone you know, the e-mail address could be masked to look like it is coming from that person (this is surprisingly easy). If you get an e-mail with a link and you are not 100% sure of what it is, verify it with the sender before you click it, and delete it if you can’t verify it.
- Be wary of any e-mail or phone call from someone you do not know that is asking for money, for any reason. The key goal of so many scams is to get you to pay right away – over the phone or by clicking a link in an e-mail message. They can be incredibly clever and can take myriad forms. A call might seem like it is from a bill collector, or a government official, or a sales person, or a charity, or even someone you think you know (see our previous blog post about the grandparent scam). If someone is trying to get you to pay over the phone or through an e-mail message, make 100% sure it is for real before you make a payment.
- Be careful about providing your personal information to anyone. Scammers use all sorts of tactics to get your social security number, birth date, bank account numbers, and other valuable pieces of information. With just a few key pieces of data, your identity can be stolen by those who know how to do it. Any time you are asked for any sort of personal information that might be sensitive, make sure you verify whomever is asking.
- If you decide to make a purchase without being 100% secure, use your credit card, instead of cash or your debit card. Credit card companies typically offer greater fraud protections than debit cards and make it easier for you to recover your money if you fall victim to a scam or even just to a business that does not provide what they promise.
- Never, ever wire money to someone until you have verified that this is the right thing to do. Really, any request for you to wire money to absolutely anyone should immediately trigger you to investigate further. Wiring is one of the most common ways for scammers to request money, because it is so hard to recover or even identify who the final recipient might be. For example, one of the most common business scams is for someone to mask an e-mail address to look like it is coming from someone you know (a friend, family member, co-worker, etc.), and then ask you to wire money because of some personal or business emergency.
- Do some extra research to verify any website with which you are not familiar, before buying anything from it. It is just so easy to create a professional looking, but fake, website, that can then be used to sell fake or shoddy products, or to simply take your money and never deliver anything at all.
- Check out the BBB Scam Tracker for scams in your area, or anywhere in the country, and share it with people you know. The best way to avoid a scam is to know about it, and the BBB Scam Tracker is one of the most comprehensive sources around for what is happening across the country. You can narrow it down to your state, town, or even zip code, and learn about what has been reported close to you.
There are other tips for avoiding scams, and BBB certainly encourages you to visit www.midmobbb.org to find more information about what might be out there, how to avoid it, and what to do if you or someone you know falls victim.