We've heard about the gold-diggers trolling Las Vegas and online sites looking for marks to start love scams. People are making fake accounts on Tinder and other dating apps to find lonely marks who are desperate and not thinking clearly - wiping out the savings of their victims. Even professional networking sites like LinkedIn have been the hunting grounds for different scams according to a recent FBI report.
What's your Scam IQ?
The website ScamSpotter.org has many useful tips to help identify potential scams and provides decent advice for those who think they be the subject of a scammer. The most frequent types of scams are:
- Tech Support Scams
- Romance Scams
- Bad News Scams
- Good News Scams
In dealing with these types of scams there are three basic things to effectively deal with them. Using these will help you identify possible scams, and possibly protect you and your assets.
If you've ever gone to a site and suddenly received numerous pop-up ads or a series of screen popups notifying you that something is not right, or you have been infected with a virus - but it didn't come from an alert on your antivirus software? This is a common tactic used by tech scammers. The multiple pops and flashing alerts are meant to create a sense of urgency so you will not slow down and think things through.
First, slow down and ignore all of the popups or flashing alerts. You can try hitting backspace, or just closing your internet browser. This often works. Check to make sure all of your software is up to date (turn on automatic updates), and run a virus scan. Don't call any numbers which may be flashing or popping up for you to call tech support, or any other number.
If a company is named in the pop-ups as a way to update your software or remedy your situation, do an internet search for the company and use the words scam or complaints. See if this is a real company and if it is legitimate.
The last tell-tale sign is if you do seek them out or make contact, and they ask for non-traditional payment methods. You should only make payments by credit card to protect yourself from fraud. Never make wire transfers, pay by gift card, or cryptocurrency. Anyone who asks for payment by these means should immediately throw up a red flag.
According to CNBC, online daters lost a record $547 million to scams in 2021. A report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says online dating creates opportunities for love, but scammers to. People have reported losing $1.3 billion to romance scams over the past five years - more than any other FTC fraud category. The FTC says the number are skyrocketing, and 2021 was no exception. 2021's $547 million is an 80% increase over 2020.
Think with your brain
You should see a red flag if they ask you to move off the platform you met on (Tinder, etc..) and use WhatsApp, Telegram, or another messaging system. Turn on your potential scam receptors when things like this happen.
While some scammers may let the romance smolder and build, when ready they will create a sense of urgency (seem familiar to the tech scam above?). They might suddenly have an immediate need for cash that can't wait - slow down and think things through. Never be rushed with it comes to giving people money.
Don't be afraid to do a "deep dive" of your online admirer. Look them up on the internet and look for photos. Use multiple sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and any company website where they may work. There are also site like Whitepages.com and Beenverified.com to look people up. If they've provided you photos of them, their home, or their family you can do a google search of their photo to verify they are who they say. (Identify them, as with the tech scam.)
Here's the kicker... if they ask you to send them a gift card or wire them money, if you offered to buy them a gift, you can be pretty sure it's a scam.
Bad news and Good news scams
Have you been contacted recently by a bank, a federal agency such as the IRS, or law enforcement demanding immediate payment for something you obviously overlooked? Me too. Fortunately I know you will not get an e-mail or be contacted online by these agencies or your banking institution for something like this. They will create a sense of urgency - remember to slow down and think.
The same situation may present as you just inherited several million dollars, won the lottery, or a grand prize - you need only pay the taxes. Don't rush out and send the money. Slow down and think... this is rule number one. Never let anyone rush you.
If you are contacted, never use the phone number or e-mail address they give you. Always look up the correct number online and call it to confirm your suspicions. If you can't find a number... it is most likely a scam. - Remember rule number two, identify them.
The good news is, to stay out of jail, prevent foreclosure on your home, or loose everything you've won, inherited, etc... you just need to pay the taxes or money owed right? Just send us the money via wire transfer - or they may want you to send a gift card.
I don't think so. This is the big red flag. Never wire funds or use a gift card to make such payments. The government and your bank will want a check or credit card, just as all legitimate entities. If you'd won money, they'd take it out before giving it to you, as with the lottery. The government will take any taxes you owe on winnings, like trips or the lottery either in advance for cash, or by way of income taxes at the end of the year. Don't sweat it.
Use your wits and keep your cool
The best way to deal with scammers is to delete their emails, block their numbers, and report them when on sites like LinkedIn, Tinder, Facebook, etc.. Don't let anyone rush you. Never share your personal information with anyone that can be used for identity theft to bilk you out of your hard earned money or reputation.
Always report these types of activity, and if you get scammed - be sure to report it to the proper authorities so they can begin an investigation. Even if they aren't able to help you, your actions may help save others from the same fate.