June is Internet Safety Month, so I figured now was the right time to talk about fraud. Digital & cyber fraud is more rampant now than it ever has been. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have become victims to these types of crimes. As a financial coach, I’ve seen first-hand clients falling victim to buying gift cards and bank hacking. According to AARP, cyber criminals deploy “everything but the kitchen sink”, from fake grandchildren to online romances with one thing in mind: your money. Check out my list below of some of the most common cyber scams, based on FBI data, and how to avoid them.
10 Common Cyber Scams and Crimes:
(see https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes for the full list)
- Advance Fee Schemes: An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone to receive something of greater value, such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift, then receiving little or nothing in return.
- Business Email Compromise/Business Fraud: Business email compromise (BEC) is one of the most financially damaging online crimes. It exploits the fact that so many of us rely on email to conduct business, personally and professionally. On the other hand, business fraud consists of activities undertaken by an individual or company in a dishonest or illegal manner for their own benefit.
- Charity and Disaster Fraud: Charity and disaster fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work. While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters.
- Credit Card Fraud: Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit or debit card, or card number, to obtain money or property.
- Elder Fraud: Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or emotional scheme, including romance, lottery, and sweepstakes scams, to name a few. In recent years young adults have become the biggest growing population to fall victim to scams.
- Counterfeit/Fraudulent Products: From counterfeit prescription drugs, to fraudulent cosmetics and anti-aging products, the internet has given consumers widespread access to health and beauty products they don’t know are fake.
- Health Care Fraud: Health care fraud causes tens of billions of dollars of losses every year, and is one of the top scams investigated by the FBI.
- Identity Theft: Identity theft or “catfishing” happens far too often every year, and these criminals often use your identity to perform fraud and other crimes. This can affect things like your credit, social security number, bank account and the list goes on.
- Internet Fraud: Most types of fraud in this day and age are considered internet fraud, involving the use of internet services or software to take advantage of people in a variety of ways.
- Investment Fraud: Investment fraud is an offer using false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
10 Ways To Protect Yourself:
- Keep your devices safe: According to Central Bank, “Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.”
- Set strong passwords: Get creative with your passwords, and be sure to change them right away anytime you suspect suspicious activity. I love password keepers like the one I use and recommend called LastPass. They have free or paid versions, go check it out. Don’t keep a list at home or online with all your passwords and make them hard to hack! https://lastpass.wo8g.net/Pennywise
- Beware of phishing: Fake emails and websites will “fish” for information, so don’t get tricked into disclosing private details. Click on the email “from” line to see the actual email it’s coming from. If it says a business but shows a generic email such as yahoo or gmail it is not likely from that business but it’s hard to tell. According to the FTC, “Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.”
- Keep your personal information to yourself: Beware of sharing too much personal information on outlets like social media, and be aware of your privacy settings.
- Trust your gut: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of anything involving prizes, money, etc.
- Beware of urgency: Scammers use scare tactics to get people to act fast off of emotion. If there’s a problem, or you’re being pressured to act immediately, it’s probably a scam.
- Never give money: Scammers will always ask you to pay in a specific way, or threaten jail time or legal action if you don’t act fast. Never give your money away if you don’t know where it’s going.
- Secure your internet connection: Be cautious of connecting to wi-fi networks that aren’t secure. It’s not worth getting your identity stolen to save a few bucks on data.
- Shop safely: Ask yourself where you’re shopping from. Is this a well-known company, or someone you know personally? Are they backed by the Better Business Bureau? If not, think twice before you offer up your payment info.
If you are a business owner, you have even more cybercrimes to watch out for. Check out this article on some top small business scams you should be aware of.
Digital & cyber fraud is something to take seriously. It happens to so many people. You need to always be vigilant when it comes to our money and its security. Not having a clear understanding of your financial picture can lead to fraud going undetected for months at a time. If you are ready to better understand your financial security – contact me today!