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How to Protect Yourself from Scams: Identifying the Top Three Red Flags


How to Protect Yourself from Scams: Identifying the Top Three Red Flags

Protect Yourself from Fraud


Today's scams have become increasingly sophisticated and prevalent, targeting unsuspecting people from all walks of life. Whether it's a phishing email, a fraudulent phone call, or a deceptive online ad, scammers are constantly devising new ways to exploit our trust and steal our hard-earned money.


The key to protecting yourself lies in recognizing the warning signs early on. In this article, we'll explore the top three red flags to help you spot a scam before it's too late. By understanding these critical indicators, you can stay one step ahead of the fraudsters and safeguard your personal information and financial security.


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Understanding Scams


A scam, at its core, is a false statement presented as fact with the intent to deceive. Victims rely on these false statements and suffer damages as a result. Essentially, someone lies to you, separates you from a possession or information, and fails to deliver on their promises. Understanding this basic definition helps us recognize the signs and protect ourselves from becoming victims.


The Victim I Tried to Help


I want to remind you of an incident that happened to me a few years ago at my local pharmacy. There was a stressed-out woman on her phone, confused about getting a specific type of gift card.


As I noticed her she said something that really stood out. She was told not to hang up or put the phone down, which raised a red flag for me. She was being targeted in a gift card scam.


A gift card scam typically begins with an unsolicited call or email claiming an urgent need for payment, such as a family emergency, a police bench warrant, or legal fees. The scammer instructs the victim to purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers and PINs, supposedly to resolve the issue. Once the scammer has this information, they quickly drain the funds, leaving the victim unable to recover their money.


Despite my efforts to intervene and help the poor woman at the pharmacy, she ended up buying the gift card. At least my son got to see me try to help her. This experience highlights that people involved in scams often don’t realize what's happening. They follow a logical progression that makes sense to them but are actually up against experienced scammers. It’s not a fair fight.


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The First Red Flag: Out of the Blue Offer


The first way to spot a suspicious offer is being contacted out of the blue. This could be a phone call claiming a loved one is in jail in Mexico, winning a contest you don’t remember entering, or a text about shipping information from UPS when you didn’t order anything. These situations seem plausible but are unlikely. The scam relies on curiosity and the natural human desire to see what happens next.


And that's the point. Scammers know that humans are naturally curious. They know that if they give a victim enough real details and a plausible benefit, then they may want to take the next step. It's a trap humans have been snared in since the beginning of time.


Common Scam Scenarios


A recent scam reported by the Better Business Bureau involved young adults losing more money to scammers than anyone else in America due to job search site scams. Legitimate sites like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn were used to lure job seekers with offers of jobs they didn’t apply for, creating a sense of excitement and hope. Scammers then extracted personal information and money from unsuspecting victims.


Red Flag Two: Demands for Something Valuable


The second sign of a scam is when an unknown person, or recent acquaintance, wants something valuable from you. Now that the scammer has presented the problem, they turn up the pressure by giving victims an opportunity to end the fake problem by giving them something of value.


While money is often the target, scammers may also seek personal information. For example, a scammer posing as a court agent might claim you missed jury duty and need to provide your social security number to clear a bench warrant. With your data, scammers can easily pose as you to open new bank accounts, utilities, or lines of credit.


Protecting Your Personal Data


Scammers can purchase a lot of personal data from data brokers. Services like DeleteMe can help by removing your information, reducing the chances of being targeted. Remember, sometimes your data is more valuable to scammers than cash.


Scammers will use your real information to pretend to be you. With enough data they can open bank accounts, apply for lines of credit, and even receive medical treatment. It is surprising how little information is needed to impersonate you.


Red Flag Three: The Big Ask


Scammers will eventually make a big ask to complete their trap. They might request banking information over the phone or ask you to purchase gift cards and read them the numbers. At some point, the request will feel odd.


Government agencies don’t ask for Target gift cards to pay fines, and police departments don’t need your bank account information. The infamous Nigerian Prince Email scam, which started with snail mail, illustrates this point well.


Seeking Help if Scammed


No one is immune to scams. If you find yourself a victim, don’t be embarrassed to seek help. Keeping it a secret is the worst thing you can do. Law enforcement can piece together information to build a case and potentially arrest the scammer. Every detail helps in the fight against fraud.


Conclusion: How to Protect Yourself from Scams


Being aware of the signs of scams and understanding how they work can help protect you from becoming a victim. Remember, scammers rely on deception and false statements to achieve their goals. Stay vigilant, question suspicious offers, and seek help if you fall victim to a scam. Protect yourself and your loved ones from fraud by staying informed and cautious.

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Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.

 

Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

 

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