How to Recognize and Avoid Scams: Stay Alert and Stay Safe

Almost everyone has experienced a moment where they receive a suspicious email, text message, or phone call that appears legitimate but is actually a scam. Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, fooling even the savviest individuals. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, in 2022, online scams led to over $10 billion in losses, marking the highest annual loss in the past five years. Notably, people over 60 accounted for $724 million of reported losses due to call center fraud, where scammers impersonate tech support or government agencies. Surprisingly, people in their 30s filed the most fraud complaints in 2022.

Nobody wants to become a victim of a scam, considering the potential financial and emotional costs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlighted the top five commonly reported scams in 2022, which include imposter scams, online shopping scams, prize/sweepstakes/lottery scams, investment-related scams, and business/job opportunity scams. In this blog post, we’ll cover five red flags to watch for that may indicate someone is trying to scam you.

1. Suspicious Communication from Government Agencies

It’s important to note that government agencies like the IRS and the Social Security Administration generally use the U.S. Postal Service to contact taxpayers. If you receive a call, text, email, social media message, or letter from someone claiming to be from a government agency, it’s best to hang up or ignore the message. To confirm if it was a potential scam, consider contacting the agency directly through their official phone number or website.

2. Requests for Personal Information

Be cautious of unsolicited requests for personal information, such as your Social Security number, bank account details, or credit card information. Legitimate organizations typically do not ask for this information through phone calls, text messages, or emails. If you’re uncertain about the authenticity of the request, reach out to the company or organization directly through official communication channels.

3. Urgent or High-pressure Tactics

Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency, pressuring you to make a decision immediately. They may claim that your account has been compromised, or you’ve won a prize that must be claimed right away. Take a moment to evaluate the situation and remember that a genuine organization would allow you to verify the information and make decisions at your own pace.

4. Unusual Payment Methods

If someone instructs you to make a payment through unconventional methods like wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, this is a strong indication of a scam. Reputable organizations typically provide multiple, secure payment options and never demand payment using these unorthodox methods.

5. Spelling and Grammar Errors

While not always present, phishing emails or scam messages may contain spelling and grammar mistakes, indicating that the message isn’t legitimate. Additionally, check the sender’s email address or website for any discrepancies that might signal a hoax.

By staying alert, recognizing red flags, and verifying the legitimacy of any suspicious communications, you can protect yourself from falling victim to scams. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.