Buyer Beware – How to Avoid Falling Victim to Scams

You work hard for your money, and we want to help you keep it safe! So, we’re taking a look at some of the most prevalent financial scams of 2019 and how you can avoid them. It’s important to note that financial scams are on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission reported that $1.48 billion was lost to fraud in 2018 – a 38% loss increase over 2017. Knowing how to identify a scam and what to do to avoid falling victim to scams are key steps in protecting your financial security. 

Let’s take a look at three common scams and the best practices for avoiding them. 

Equifax Data Breach
In 2017, hackers stole the information of over 143 million U.S. consumers through a data breach of Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Since then, financial scams have been on the rise. To see if your information was compromised, the first step is visiting Equifax’s website.  If your information was compromised, visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself. If you notice suspicious activity on your credit report, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for instructions on how to file a report.

Unsolicited Check Scam
Most people would welcome an unexpected refund check in the mail. However, scammers are now sending unsuspecting residents fraudulent checks disguised as refunds. Once a consumer cashes the check, they may be unknowingly signing up for a loan or giving permission to purchase items that the scammer can access.

Phishing
Phishing is one of the most common and systemic scams. Phishing occurs when scammers attempt to “verify” personal information like social security numbers or bank account numbers by impersonating the legitimate business. In a busy world, it can be easy to fall victim to phishing. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that consumers lost $30 million in 2017 to phishing scams. 

Avoiding Scams
Prevention is your best bet for avoiding scams. Take the following guidelines seriously. They could be the 

  1. Guard your personal information. Personal information like your social security number, credit card number, debit card number, birthdate, address, and driver’s license number are lucrative for scammers. Put safety measures in place to guard this information. For instance, shred documents with any identifying information, bring your mail in every day, and use the highest privacy settings on any personal accounts. 
  2.   Check your bank account and credit report regularly. Make sure to login into your financial accounts frequently and thoroughly review the information. Take action immediately if something is amiss. Consider setting up alerts with your bank that identify suspicious activity. 
  3. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, avoid providing any personal information. Legitimate businesses and organizations won’t mind verifying their identity and answering your questions. 

Scams show no signs of slowing down, which means consumers must be aware of what to look for and how to avoid them. For more information about scam, visit The Federal Trade Commission. To report a suspected scam, contact local law enforcement or visit The Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistance website at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.