Emails with offers that sound too good to be true. Text messages alerting you to false problems with your credit/debit card. Threatening phone calls demanding immediate action.
They’re all scams, and they’re becoming more common. Let’s take a look at some of the most prevalent.
What they are: Fraudulent websites that disguise themselves as a financial page. A mirrored website may try to emulate the look and feel of a bank’s webpage, yet one look at the address bar and it’s clear that the website is fake. Any information you input with the fraudulent site is recorded by scammers.
Avoid the scam: The safest way to visit a banking or financial website is to enter the institution’s correct web address in the address bar. For example, let’s say you use “ABC Bank,” and search the name. You may inadvertently click on “ABCbank.123.us” rather than “ABCbank.com.” Double-check the URL address. If you have a security program that verifies “official” websites, be sure to click on the websites that they have vetted.
Robocalls and texts
What they are: Illegal, automated phone calls and texts targeting individuals for theft. They often try to get you to act quickly so you don’t miss a deal or avoid a fine, or they claim your account has been compromised and you must immediately respond.
Avoid the scam: If you get an unwanted phone call, don’t follow the directions to “press 1” (or other number) to request to speak to someone or be taken off the call list. If you do, the system will identify you as a target that’s willing to engage, which could lead to more annoying and possibly harmful robocalls.
If you receive a text message from a number you don’t recognize, don’t text back or click on links. Report it to your provider at 7726 (SPAM) and to the FTC, or 888-382-1222. Learn more about text message spam.
What they are: Phishing emails and aggressive, often-threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents. Fraudsters may demand payment of a bogus tax bill and may even know all or part of your Social Security number (SSN). Ultimately these scams can allow fraudsters to steal your identity. With access to your SSN, criminals can file a tax return or get a job.
To prevent tax identity theft, the IRS recommends being wary of any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notice that states:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, you’ve had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for past unfiled tax returns.
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
- You must act quickly to avoid additional fines.
- You’ve been reported to the “cops.”
Avoid the scam: The IRS will never call or email asking for money or personal information. Typically, they’ll send a letter in the mail to reach a taxpayer.
If you get a call or email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t reply or click on any links. Instead, report it to the IRS.
Also, ensure past tax forms are kept safe and secure. Shred any documents you no longer need — it is recommended you maintain IRS records for at least seven years.
Timeshare resale scam
What they are: Con artists claim to have a buyer interested in purchasing a victim’s timeshare unit. After negotiating a price and signing a contract, the victim is told they must provide payment to cover closing costs. After that, the scammer disappears.
Avoid the scam: Never pay upfront fees to someone promising to sell your timeshare.
What they are: Scammers tell loan applicants they can get a loan regardless of their credit history. These criminals may ask for the victim’s bank account information or social security number. They may also ask the victim to wire money or send a check in order to get the loan.
Avoid the scam: Legitimate lenders never guarantee a loan or a credit card before an applicant applies.
Also, never pay upfront fees to someone promising a loan over the phone.
Remember, no matter how tempting the deal sounds, or how urgent the call-to-action is, stop and think before you share your personal or financial information on the phone or through email.
If it feels suspicious, hang up or delete the email immediately. The best rule to remember? If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
BECU is a not-for-profit credit union owned by its more than 1 million members. Members receive the benefit of ownership through better rates and fewer fees. In 2016, BECU put $5 million back into the community through giving and community programs.