Fraud is so rampant in our society, the U.S. federal government deemed November Fraud Awareness Month in an effort to remind consumers how to prevent and detect it. Leaders at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development say they're committed to highlighting the many resources available to detect a scam.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are four key signs to identify a fraudster.
- They pretend to be someone you know by using a variety of tricks to impersonate those familiar to you. That could be a loved one, your boss who’s on vacation, the government, a charity you support or a company with which you regularly do business.
- They claim there’s trouble or a reward. Whatever the message is, it’s likely to get your blood pressure up. The imposters might be warning you of a problem with your account, a family emergency, computer problems or even fraud. Sometimes they reel you in with good news like winning the lottery or offering an unexpected refund.
- The request is time sensitive. These swindlers want to play on your emotions, relying on you to act before you have time to think. They will do whatever they can to keep you on the phone or responding to their email. They will use threats, coercion and manipulation. Anytime something is urgent, it should be an immediate red flag.
- They will always ask for money. They’ll also be specific about HOW they want you to pay. Common methods include wire transfers, putting money on a gift card, giving them access to your bank account or sending you a check and asking for a portion of it back.
Now that you know tell-tale signs of fraud, here are some steps you can take to avoid being a victim:
- Never give out your account login information or grant someone else access to your phone or computer.
- Speaking of your accounts - monitor them regularly and be sure to flag anything suspicious immediately.
- Even if you’re emotionally invested in what’s happening, take the time to stop and think before you act.
- Verify the person’s legitimacy by hanging up/not responding. On your own, locate and contact them through their email address or phone number.
- Be suspicious of anyone asking for a very specific type of payment, particularly a method that can’t be reversed or cancelled.
- Use unique, complex passwords to help keep your online accounts secure.
- Block unwanted calls and text messages.
- Use caution when opening email attachments.
Remember, most trustworthy organizations you do business with (including Solarity) will never ask for your login information or pressure you to send them money. If you think something sounds fishy, trust your gut and stop. Call a trusted friend or advisor and ask for guidance.
This video from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners looks at all the different areas of our lives that fraudsters can touch. Knowing the warning signs and acting with urgency will help you keep one step ahead.