Table of Contents (Find Your Tip!)
- Fool For Love
- Don’t End Up Like Eric And Thousands Of Others
- 25 Ways To Avoid Becoming A Scam Victim
- 1. Don’t Trust The Caller
- 2. Hang Up On Robocalls
- 3. Make Sure The Site Has An SSL
- 4. Testimonials
- 5. Do Research Beforehand
- 6. Use Two Factor Authentication Wherever Possible
- 7. Use Different Bank Accounts
- 8. Use Google or Apple Pay
- 9. Use PayPal
- 10. Set Up Text Alerts
- 11. Get Fraud Protection From Your Bank
- 12. Use Different Passwords For Everything
- 13. Change Your Passwords At Least Every 6 Months
- 14. Use A Strong Password Generator
- 15. Review Your Privacy Settings On Social Media
- 16. Before Listening To A Stranger, Listen To Strangers
- 17. Ask More Questions About The Product
- 18. Stay Away From Scholarship “Guarantees”
- 19. Learn How Credit Works
- 20. Save Your Receipts
- 21. Get The Purchase/Invoice In Writing
- 22. Don’t Be Pressured To Act Immediately
- 23. Use Fingerprint Passwords On Everything Applicable
- 24. Check For Credit Card Skimmers
- 25. Read The Fine Print
- The Wrap Up
We’re now 8 months into the year 2018 and scams are still a huge problem across the globe. According to the Australian government-run website Scamwatch, there have been 75,384 reports of some type of scam-crime this year. Of those crimes, a whopping $64,597,734 in total revenue has been lost worldwide.
Thanks to the internet, the ease and level of sophistication in which scams are pulled off ensures that the number of incidents will continue to grow—and it’s only a matter of time before you or someone you know becomes a target.
Fool For Love
Everyone thinks they’re too smart to become the victim of a scammer, but I’m here to tell you that even the most intelligent person in the world can get duped. One of the most common ways that smarties get fooled is due to “love”. “Love”, my friends, has taken down many a brainiac—and it will continue to do so through the end of time. “Love” (science has studied) alters the way a person thinks. It disrupts rational thought. It makes people do things they never thought they’d ever do. Case in point: my “smart” friend Eric.
Last year, my Aerospace Engineering friend Eric got scammed by a girl he met online. Eric was a straight-A student his entire life. He was (and is still) a nice guy that always worked hard and never did anything stupid … until he met “Nicole”.
“Nicole” was the name of the girl that Eric befriended on some app or site. I don’t remember which. She was a big-time “commercial real estate investor” who lived in Madrid. Eric lived in Arizona where he was pursuing his second Ph.D. Like many individuals today, Eric and “Nicole” spent several months chatting and getting to know one another. They shared thoughts, pictures, secrets, dreams—everything that people did in person. To make a very long story short, Eric fell for this girl with the amazing career. He followed her on Instagram and all the other social media sites and saw how worldly she was. Never once did he think that all the amazing places she travelled to was being financed by anything other than honest, hard work.
Eventually, they started “dating”—with the hope of hooking up in the near future. “Nicole” said she would visit Eric in the states once her latest, big investment deal went through. Something that had to do with a new commercial space in Dubai (sadly, Eric was not dubious). “Nicole” told him that it would be months before that deal was complete. That the return on her investment was a long way off. Eric, offered to come visit her, but she didn’t want him to tear himself away from his studies and insisted he continue working. But then she had the idea that Eric could get her the funds to finally come see him. He thought that was a great idea.
It was not.
“Nicole” convinced Eric to provide her with his credit card information so she could book the trip. She did. And she came. They had an amazing whirlwind weekend—on his dime. Then, right before she was set to leave, she pulled a post-coital con. She convinced Eric to invest with her in another real estate property she’d been eyeing, but couldn’t pursue yet because her funds were all tied up. It was a “sure deal.” She promised him a 400% return on his investment. Eric, now being totally in love with her, fell for it. And after he gave her his social security number and bank account information (so that she could control his transactions and fund transfers as his partner), she disappeared forever—that is, after stealing his identity and emptying his bank account.
Don’t End Up Like Eric And Thousands Of Others
The story of Eric and “Nicole” illustrates just one way that people get scammed. I told it to you because I wanted to show that it’s not just “dumb” people who get conned. Even the smartest of the smart get duped. Every single day. And you could too. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of ways for you to avoid becoming the target of a scammer. I want to ensure that this never happens to anyone (of any intelligence level) ever again. So, without further ado, here are:
25 Ways To Avoid Becoming A Scam Victim
1. Don’t Trust The Caller
Caller ID is a great feature to have on your phone, but it doesn’t always confirm who is really on the other end of the line. There are many scammers who use fake names to manipulate others. And they can’t always be readily identified. Many of these con artists use a higher authority identity to get you to part with your money. Common fake identity trends amongst scammers include Bank, IRS, debt collection, and law firm impersonators. They use this higher authority tactic to trick you into thinking that collectors are calling you for money that you “owe”. Scammers try to convince you that you’ll go to jail if you don’t pay it. Hearing such a message frightens people. It makes them act without thinking, and as a result, they get scammed.
Don’t judge. We’re all human. Many of us have tons of bills to pay, and don’t have the time to keep track of who is calling us from what number.
But here’s the solution
Before making an instant decision and taking the bait, tell them you’ll call back. Hang up the phone, insert the number into a public records directory like Kiwi Searches, and search for the phone information to make sure the phone number is legit. Remember, the goal is to ensure that all information is accurate so you can avoid being scammed. If the information matched to the number seems sketchy, start searching for the company’s information on Google. Once you’ve found them, you can verify if they were the ones who called.
Other things you can do with Kiwi Searches
Kiwi Searches comes with many features to solve your problems. You can do research on phone numbers with the reverse phone lookup service. But Kiwi Searches isn’t limited to just that. You can perform reverse address searches for location information—and you can also do criminal records research and find out more about the person you’re dealing with.
2. Hang Up On Robocalls
Robocalls. They’re incredibly annoying. Most of the time, they’re pretty harmless, yet in the hands of a scammer, they can cause more than just a bit of trouble. Scammers never stop working. They’re an incredibly diligent bunch! Employing robocalls into their operations gives them the ability to fully automate their tactics and increase their productivity ten-fold. And thanks to the prevalence of “legal” robocalls, scammers can slip easily into the mix in order to dupe innocent people who won’t even suspect that they’re frauds. So, do yourself a favor. No matter what a robocall is selling, don’t fall for it.
3. Make Sure The Site Has An SSL
A scammer will say anything to get you to submit your credit card data on their website. You have to be cautious of where you enter your private information. When you’re looking to buy a product, make sure the website has an SSL Certificate before you decide to part with your personal information and hard-earned cash.
How To Check For An SSL Certificate
An SSL Certificate is a core variable that protects your payments when you’re making a purchase on a page. But what does an SSL Certificate look like, and how can you identify if there’s one on the website?
If you’re seeking a visual indicator that’s easy to identify, all you need to do is look at the search bar and see whether or not the website says “https://” or has a green “Secure” sign right next to it—sort of like the one below.
There are many sources that you can use to check if a website has an SSL certificate. One I use all the time is sslshopper.com. When you get to that website, just plug in the name of the site that you’re looking to get information on and the results will populate. If the site is secured, it’ll look like this:
Testimonials are another great indicator that a page is trustworthy. They show you that people have used the site before and had good experiences with them. When a website has testimonials, it tells you that they’re a trusted and reputable company. But, before you go blindly trusting those testimonials, try your best to confirm that they are written by actual people and not by the website’s creator or marketing team.
Here are the different types of testimonials structures that you can look for:
- Testimonials by person + Person’s Name, Title, Company, and Feedback
- Testimonial by person + Person’s Name, Title, Company, and Headshot Photo
- Video Testimonial by person + Person’s Name, Title, Company, Headshot Photo, and Social Profiles
5. Do Research Beforehand
Never take anyone’s word as fact. It is essential to do the proper research if you want to buy something and avoid being scammed. First, identify why you need this product or service. Once you’ve done that, you can look online to see if there are any alternatives. To ensure you don’t get scammed, you should be checking to see:
- How long the company has been around.
- If the company has bad reviews.
- If you can get the same service or product anywhere else for less money.
6. Use Two Factor Authentication Wherever Possible
Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is a great way to protect yourself from a scammer. Dual verification adds an extra step to your login process in order to accurately verify that the person trying to log into your account is you. In theory, this method makes your account more secure. And it’s easy to see why that is. Imagine how frustrated a hacker would be if they’d spent hours trying to hack your account, only to find out that they need 2FA. Usually, 2FA will request your fingerprint or code to confirm your identity. While this authentication method is great for security purposes, it’s also an excellent way to alert you of anything fishy—like if someone was trying to log into your account without your permission.
7. Use Different Bank Accounts
I feel like this should be a rule of thumb for everyone. If you know that you’re going to spend money on things that can put you in a risky situation, then you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket, as they say. If you want to protect yourself from dangerous situations, have a checking account that you use for everyday purchases, and keep a separate account solely for purchasing new things that you want to try out. So, if anyone attempts to steal all your money, they’ll fail because you have multiple accounts.
8. Use Google or Apple Pay
Cell Phones have evolved, and because of things like Google Pay and Apple Pay, making purchases through them has made everything more secure. When you use Google or Apple Pay to make an in-store purchase, you’re not revealing any card information. This takes away the stress of wondering whether or not someone could steal your card information.
9. Use PayPal
If you’re going to buy a product from someone you’re not sure about, don’t risk using your bank account. You could get completely wiped out. However, if there’s an option to buy the product or service through a PayPal account, use that instead. PayPal is ultra-secure and reliable to keep its customers safe and satisfied. And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable entering your purchasing information on any site, then you shouldn’t.
10. Set Up Text Alerts
Call your bank and arrange to have text alerts sent to your phone that notify you when money has been taken out of your account. Sure, it may get annoying after a while when you’re receiving tons and tons of messages from actual purchases that you yourself made, but it’s better to play it safe now than to be sorry later.
11. Get Fraud Protection From Your Bank
Everyone should have bank account fraud protection. Why? A while back, I went to the store to buy some clothes. At the checkout counter, I pulled out my debit card to pay for everything. It came to around $300. I swiped my card, and to my surprise, it got declined. I swiped again. The same. So, I tried another card. That one worked thankfully, but I was confused … and a little embarrassed. When I left the store, I called the bank to see why my debit card didn’t work. They told me they had called a few minutes before and left a voicemail. I didn’t get that message because I was shopping. The bank rep then informed me that my card was declined because someone made a large purchase ($650) in Ohio—a state I’ve never even been in—just under an hour before. “But I’m here in New York,” I told the bank rep. “Well somebody definitely tried to use your card number in Ohio,” she replied. “Well, it wasn’t me,” I answered back. She then asked if I had any automatic renewal services tied to the account. I racked my brain trying to remember if any of my services (Xbox Gold, Netflix, World Gym, etc.) might have taken the money out, but came up with nothing. Even if one of them did do an automatic transaction, it sure wouldn’t have cost $650. Somebody had definitely been trying to rob me, but my bank’s fraud protection saved my butt. They cancelled my card right there and issued me a new one. They also didn’t hold me accountable for the $650 that the crook took from me. So, take it from me, you need fraud protection.
12. Use Different Passwords For Everything
Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but creating different passwords for all of your accounts is completely worth it. If you have the same password for everything, you’re practically begging for someone to ruin your life. Once a hacker has your one password—the one that you use for every single site and account—they can completely destroy you. They will access all of your accounts, steal all of your money, take your private photos and put them up on the internet, commandeer your identity, and put viruses on every single thing they get their digital hands on. So, do the smart thing and use separate passwords for every account and device you have. That way, if a hacker gets the password for one of your accounts, they can’t get to the others.
13. Change Your Passwords At Least Every 6 Months
Changing your passwords regularly is just as important as using different ones. Sure, it can be annoying. After all, who wants to keep coming up with new ones over and over again for their entire life—and then try to remember them! I sure don’t—but I do. And you should too. It’s one of the best ways to avoid being scammed. Seriously, you should never keep the same password for too long. Hackers work really hard to find them out. And when they finally do, they go to town. While it’s a hassle to create new passwords over and over again and commit them to memory, it’s far worse trying to get your funds and identity back after you’ve been hacked. So, do yourself a favor. Change your passwords. And if you need help, there are some excellent apps out there that can make the process easier. I highly recommend one of the choices below:
14. Use A Strong Password Generator
It’s one thing to change your passwords, but how do you know when you have a good one? If you really want to protect your accounts, you should consider a password generator. Password generators create strong passwords for you to keep your accounts safe. They have multiple options (e.g.: length of password and the number of letters, numbers, and symbols) for creating the perfect password for each one. Some of the best password generator sites include:
15. Review Your Privacy Settings On Social Media
Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. are all great for connecting with long lost friends and family. However, they also make it easier for scammers to find you. Today’s crooks have no problem spending all day sifting through every social media site in order to scam you. And they do it easily because these sites allow them to search by name, email address, mutual friends, and phone numbers—if you have a public profile. That’s why you should check all of your social media settings and make the correct adjustments to keep your accounts private.
16. Before Listening To A Stranger, Listen To Strangers
Instead of blindly taking someone’s word for how good their work or product is, you should see what other people are saying first—especially if that individual, service, or product isn’t backed by testimonials. Seeking the recommendations of others can give you a better understanding of the person you’re working with or buying from. Finding out the experiences of others can save you a lot of time, money, and grief. Just remember, not everybody has the same experience. So, play the numbers game and gather as much information from as many sources as you can. A little extra due diligence always pays off in the end.
17. Ask More Questions About The Product
Before spending your hard-earned money on a product, you should always ask questions about it first. Plenty of questions. Sellers are in it for the money—plain and simple—and unscrupulous ones don’t care how they get it. Educating oneself about the company or product before making a purchase is the best defense against a con. Bad businesses don’t care about customer satisfaction. They’re hoping that consumers just naively buy their goods or services without checking on the quality or reliability of each. That’s why you should research each offering and vendor. Ask questions via customer service or through the reviews and comments sections. Ask many and ask often. Scammers try to avoid questions. And they always have plenty of unsatisfied customers. So, ask around. If there’s a lot of negative feedback from customers, or the seller seems defensive or angry when questioned, hold off.
18. Stay Away From Scholarship “Guarantees”
If you’re a college-age student who has been contacted by a company claiming you’ve won a scholarship, but you know that you haven’t applied to it, chances are, that scholarship is a scam. So many fraudulent companies use “guarantee scholarships” as an attention grabber to reel unsuspecting students in. Most of the time, they just want to get your personal information and sell you some kind of product. If companies mention certain things like “we’ll do the work for you” or “give us your account information”—steer clear. It’s probably a scam. Always know where you applied and what you applied for. And don’t ever fall for some entity soliciting you from out of the blue. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
19. Learn How Credit Works
We’ve all seen our share of “credit repair” offers. But most of the time, they’re a sham. These types of scams bait innocent, hard-working individuals with offers of low interest rates and higher credit lines. They promise to lower or pay off one’s debt within an impossibly short amount of time. However, what these “companies” really do is the exact opposite. They just take your information—along with your trust—so they can steal your money. Plain and simple. That’s why you need to educate yourself about your credit. Two of the best tools for doing that are Mint and Credit Karma. Both of these tools can’t actually help you get more money or fix your credit directly, but they can teach you about what you need to do to get on a better financial path. And they can steer you away from all of those scammers who promise to fix all of your money problems.
20. Save Your Receipts
First and foremost, when you’re paying for a service or product, you should ALWAYS get a receipt. And when you do, save it for your records. That way, if you notice credit card charges that you don’t think you made, you can check your receipts to confirm it. Then, you can contact customer support with proof that someone’s fraudulently making charges on your card.
21. Get The Purchase/Invoice In Writing
Another way to avoid being scammed is by getting major personal or business purchases in writing. If you think that you’ll never be scammed by a salesperson in your entire life, you’re wrong. Salespeople can be deceptive. Many only care about making money—and their commissions. They can trick you into doing things that you never wanted to do by providing false information and promises. Then, once they get their cash, they’re gone. A physical invoice or contract can help keep things on the up and up should an issue with a purchase arise. While it won’t stop every criminally minded individual from ripping you off, it can deter a lazy or less ethical seller from not living up to their end of the bargain. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you get everything in writing.
22. Don’t Be Pressured To Act Immediately
When scammers call you, they tend to try to make it sound like you MUST pay immediately (when in truth, you don’t have to pay at all). They’ll say things like “If you don’t pay, you’ll be arrested” or “You’ll be fined an additional fee of 80 gazillion dollars.” They’re trying to play with your emotions and use fear against you. They work hard and fast to throw you off your guard so they can take advantage of your frightened and frazzled mind. Protect yourself by not reacting immediately. Take a breath. Take their number. And tell they you will call them back. Then, check that number with a good reverse phone number checker like Kiwi Searches.
23. Use Fingerprint Passwords On Everything Applicable
Only you have your fingerprint. Nobody has one like it. As technology moves forward, more apps, phones, and computers are replacing regular number/letter/symbol pass codes with individual, fingerprint-based ones. This type of security feature makes it easy for you to unlock your cell phone, and near-impossible for anyone else. It’s a fantastic protective measure for preventing scammers from ruining your life.
24. Check For Credit Card Skimmers
Criminals will try anything, including trying to clone your credit or debit card. Skimming involves a crook attaching a device to an ATM’s card-swipe portion of the machine in order to steal your bank account number and pass code. It’s very common in lesser populated areas, because the perpetrator needs time to install these devices and then retrieve them. But it also happens in regularly trafficked places as well. So, here are several things you can do to avoid having your card skimmed:
- Use an ATM in a secure area
- Check to see if there are any odd devices attached to the ATM you’re using
- Make sure no one is watching you when you enter your information into an ATM machine
- If the transaction doesn’t go through after you’re entered your code (especially more than once), call your bank to let them know
25. Read The Fine Print
Let’s face it, most of us never read the fine print—either because we assume everything is okay or because the copy is overlong/convoluted. Other times, we just skim through it—looking for key points or important dates. But as any consumer advocate will tell you, “Read the fine print.”
If you’re looking to buy something, you should read every single thing about it—not just the reviews, but the teeny, tiny legal copy at the end. Some of the fine print contains expiration dates. Many list what the company is and isn’t responsible for once you use their product. Others note problems that could arise. For example, if you want to buy vitamins so you can feel more energized, you need to make sure there aren’t any dangerous side effects like memory loss, heart problems, and long-term vision loss that could come with taking them.
The Wrap Up
With the advancement of technology, scammers are becoming much more difficult to deal with. In this article, I aimed to show you how to avoid being scammed with 25 tips that I hope you found helpful. So, if you didn’t see something you were looking for—or you have a tip we didn’t think of, let us know in the comments section below.