Anyone can become a target for fraud. Learn more about how to spot scams.
Anyone who owns a computer or other electronic device connected to the Internet could be a target for this scam. A typical scenario involves a call alleging to be from a well-known computer or software company offering to access your home computer to fix errors they have detected.
The scammer may try to gain your Internet Protocol (IP) address so that he or she can take control of your computer. The thief also could install spyware or other malicious software that could allow him or her to steal your user IDs and passwords and to access your accounts. Some scammers have even coerced people into paying for bogus computer repairs.
Keep in mind that computer companies have absolutely no way of telling from a remote location whether a computer has software issues. To help prevent computer intrusion, never allow anyone you don’t know to gain access to your computer, and always keep your virus detection software current.
The identity thief uses someone else’s personal information to obtain money, receive services or secure employment. With synthetic identity theft, an imposter creates a new identity by altering the victim’s personal information so that credit bureaus create subfiles for the new accounts.
Skilled identity thieves obtain personal information in a variety of ways. The scam can be as simple as a stolen wallet or as complicated as a corporate data breach.
If your identity is used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes, it can cost you time and money. Identity theft can destroy your credit and ruin your good name.
When a grandchild calls with an urgent need for cash, the grandparent often feels compelled to help. But the voice on the other end of the line may not be your grandchild. Scam artists have been known to impersonate loved ones, tricking older adults into providing personal information that can convince them the call is legitimate.
With this scam, the caller may describe an emergency (such as an arrest or auto accident in a foreign country) and ask for money to be wired urgently. More elaborate scams include someone posing as an attorney or a public defender in order to validate the claim.
A good way to confirm the caller’s identity is to ask questions that only your loved one can answer. Also consider calling your loved one back at a number that you have on file and know to be correct.
This scam often involves an overseas attorney searching for a beneficiary for his or her deceased client. Many times, authentic-looking forms with official seals, stamps or signatures are used to make the offer appear legitimate.
While few people would turn down the unexpected financial windfall of a surprise inheritance, these scams come with strings attached. Once the scammer gains your trust, you will be asked to send money in advance for fees, taxes, security processing or another reason connected with the inheritance. The estate is fictitious, however, and you will end up losing any money you send.
Keep in mind that you should never pay money in order to get money. If you believe an offer is legitimate, discuss it with a family member or trusted friend to gain an outside perspective.
Long-distance Relationship Scam
Scammers often use email and other social media sites to search for potential victims. The scammer may claim to be a U.S. citizen temporarily overseas. As the online relationship develops, so does your trust.
At some point, the scammer will request money for an urgent need – and may claim “you are my last hope.” You will be instructed to wire money to a third party, most likely internationally. If you send a payment, inevitably more money will be needed.
The scammer hopes to succeed by preying on your emotional state and taking advantage of your trust, generosity and goodwill. He or she wants to empty your accounts before you catch on.
Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
The idea of winning millions in a lottery or sweepstakes can be exciting. If it sounds too good to be true, though, it probably is.
There are legitimate foreign and domestic lotteries. However, it is a violation of federal law for any U.S. citizen to participate in a foreign lottery.
Legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes never ask for money upfront in exchange for a prize. But in most lottery scams, you are asked to pay taxes, bank fees and even shipping or storage charges. Official-looking forms containing the names of well-known companies may add credibility. Many “lucky winners” have ended up losing thousands of dollars.