How To Outsmart The Most Common Money Scams

Financial scams are on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual Sentinel Data Book report — but there are some simple measures most people can take to avoid being played.

Consumers reported nearly 3 million scams to the FTC in 2018, 48 per cent of which were related to fraud of some kind. The top types of scams were:

  • Imposter scams, such as catfishing, impersonating government employees or a close relative, etc.

  • Debt collection scams

  • Identity theft

Telephone was the most common mode of communication the scammers used to get in touch with victims, while wire transfers were the top payment method for fraud. Here are some tips to avoid falling for a money-related scam in 2019.

Hang up the phone

The telephone was by far the most prevalent communication method used to scam consumers.

Screenshot: FTC

There are countless phone scams to be on the lookout for, but here are a few we’ve come across.

If you get a call from any “government agency” demanding payment immediately or else you’ll be taken to jail, hang up. This is not how the government operates. (This scam is especially important to relay to non-English speakers and the elderly.)

This is true for any sort of strange message you get via phone, whether it’s a call or text (or an email). As Lifehacker covered previously, never trust and respond to a random message that something has gone wrong with an account, that there’s an urgent problem or that requests personal info. “If you receive a confusing message or phone call, hang up or ignore it, and contact your bank or financial institution directly.”

Prevent credit card fraud

Of the different types of identity theft perpetuated, credit card fraud was the most commonly reported. Lifehacker has a variety of content on how to avoid having your personal information stolen, and what to do if your credit card is compromised.

Scammers opening new accounts were far more commonly reported than using an existing credit account, making one of the most important measure to take is to freeze your credit card immediately.

After credit card fraud, tax fraud and phone/utilities fraud (for example, someone opening a utility account in someone else’s name) were reported the most.

In addition to freezing your accounts, consider opting into fraud alerts (your bank or card issuer should offer them) and make a regular habit of checking your statements regularly.


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