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Scams: How do you avoid them?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Scams are everywhere these days, from phishing emails, to phone scams, to people knocking on your door, it seems that these criminal actions are on the rise. So how do you protect yourself from being scammed? You may be pleasantly surprised just how easy it can be! In this article, we will give you the knowledge you need to shield yourself from many scams, but remember, staying vigilant is always key! The first rule of avoiding scams is simple, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A good example of this is when someone knocks on your door and tells you they will install a brand new roof on your home that is top of the line for only $5,000 when the average price in your area is $20,000. More often than not this "roofer" will take your deposit and never come back to install a roof.

Another common scam is when you see a pop-up in your browser saying your computer is infected with a virus and to call a number to reach "Microsoft" or "Apple" to clean your device. This is always a scam, these companies do not want you to call them about a virus and if you call the number you will start to see many of the signs of a scam. Here is a list, but remember this is not all inclusive:

  • Asking for remote access to your computer

  • Wanting payment in gift cards

  • Asking for your banking information

  • Pressuring you to stay on the line

  • Telling you not to tell anyone who you are talking to

  • Asking you to download software

Many of these scams will try and trick you into thinking that your computer has been infected and then charge you hundreds of dollars to "clean" the virus. To make things worse, they also tend to install malicious software on your machine to either scam you again in the future, or use your machine to find new victims. They may also call you to inform you that you've been infected. Legitimate companies will never call you out of the blue to inform you of a virus, there is no way they would even know unless you have a monitoring service with them in place already.

So lets talk about another frequent scam, one that involves organizations like the IRS, your local Sheriff, or other authorities. Scammers will often pretend to be these organizations and claim that you owe money or have a warrant out for your arrest, and that you can clear it up by paying them over the phone. Firstly, organizations like these will never call you for payment, period, and second if there was a warrant they would be at your door with a piece of paper, not talking to you on the phone. If someone claiming to be from one of these organizations calls you, hang up and call the organization directly. Chances are they will inform you its a scam, collect information about the call and look into it.

Facebook is another site that scams run wild. With such a huge user base its difficult to prevent every bad actor. Scams on Facebook often come from newer accounts that posting are "jobs" or pretending to be interested in romantic relationships. These accounts are frequently used to take over your account and use your account for future scams as well. Always hover over a users profile picture in a post and see when the account was made, if its very recent, chances are its a scam. Another thing to look out for is messages from people you don't know claiming to know you. If you think your account has been compromised, report it to Facebook here. If you see a friends account posting unusual things, they may be compromised and if able, inform them so they can report the issue.

One last scam to talk about involves the transfer of money. Many scammers will use something like awards, winnings, etc to send you money, then claim they sent too much and ask you to refund what was sent, only to then cancel the original transaction. Never give out your bank details, accept wire transfers, or other forms of monetary transfer from anyone you do not know or are not expecting to receive money from.

This covers the basics but remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. By following that rule, and keeping a close eye out for anything that seems off, you can avoid the vast majority of scams. If you think you have been scammed, report it immediately to the US government and any institutions you have accounts with to prevent further damages.

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