A pop-up ad is blinking on your screen: “Congratulations! You’ve just won a million dollars!” It’s tempting to click on. The money could mean a lot of different things. Lucky you—all you did was log onto Facebook, receive this pop-up that asks you for some personal information and, in a few days’ time, you’ll be a millionaire. But you would find more money in a losing lottery ticket when that pop-up turns out to be a scam.
“If they’re asking you to pay money, it’s a scam,” said Robb Hicken, chief storyteller of the Better Business Bureau in Boise. “If they’re asking for personal information, it’s a scam. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Some scams still stick to phone calls and snail mail. Others are more tech savvy and send out phony emails, Internet advertisements and smartphone apps stacked with viruses.
“The more we shift to those kind of things, scammers are bound to jump in there,” Hickens said. "Scammers have dozens of ways to get your personal information and anyone is a target. When we look back over the statics, there is a broad range, It’s not just old people, it’s not just young people.”
Knowing what to look out for is the first step in keeping yourself safe from scams.
“You’re hired! After you give us your credit report.”
In a slumping economy, people are hunting for jobs, any jobs. Some positions to work from home are easy enough to get—fill out an application, get an interview on the phone and, finally, give your new employer your credit report complete with all your bank information. Once the “company” has the information it needs, you’ll be out of more than just a job.
“You have far too many friends to keep to yourself. Why don’t you share them with a scammer.”
Social networking sites share a lot of information about a person, so it’s not difficult for scammers to pose as someone else and share links. Oftentimes the links are viral videos that ask you to upgrade your Flash player to view, but instead of an upgrade, you get a virus. One click and the same message is sent to all your friends under your name and a worm is searching through your computer for your personal information. Search it on Google before you click on a juicy, unbelievable headline.
“Paying people to not take your stuff”
Craigslist and Western Union are used by scammers to get your money when you’re selling things online. Someone contacts you about a television you’re selling on Craigslist and sends you a check for more money than you asked for. The “buyer” tells you that it’s not a big deal, just deposit the check and wire the difference to whatever name. You do it. The check bounces, you lose the wired money and you still have that damn television.
“If you’re me then who am I?”
Identity theft has been around for the last 20 years, maybe more. A recent scam wakes hotel patrons up in the middle of the night, saying the hotel’s computer system crashed and the front desk needs the person’s credit card information. Groggy and disoriented, people fall for this, read off their number and fall back asleep only to wake up in the morning with a declined credit card.