How Good Are You at Spotting Any Scam?

Think you are smarter than scammers and so cannot become a victim? You might be surprised to learn that younger adults (19-25) are more likely to be victimized and lose money in a scam than people over 65! For younger adults, the most common methods of communication by scammers are via text message, email and social media apps. For those older adults, the most common methods are by using telephone calls or emails.

In this post, we cover some general characteristics of scams, particularly ones received by telephone.

Pre-Paid Cards

One technique that is used that should be a red flag is any payment method that is immediate such as wiring money or the use of pre-paid cards of some type.

If someone calls and threatens you with arrest but wants you to buy a pre-paid card to get out of it, it is almost certainly a scam.  The particular card might be a Green Dot card, an iTunes card, or basically any pre-paid card that they can spend easily and quickly before you figure out you’ve become a victim.  The clue to a scam is the request for a pre-paid card.  Perhaps you have been talking to someone and gone as far as going out to purchase some pre-paid cards.  You can still avoid the scam!

As soon as they ask you to read the numbers and scratch-off information to them over the phone, don’t do it.  Regardless of who they have convinced you they are or represent, no legitimate organization will ask you to read card information over the phone.  Although you may be used to doing this with a credit card when ordering something over the phone, you do this because it is you that initiated the call to order. 

The Urgency of Time

Another clue is the time frame.  Most scammers are trying to make quick money and don’t want a prolonged experience with their victim.  Scam and move on.  So this means that the scammer is going to focus on the urgency of getting the money right away. 

If they want you to stay on the line with them as you go to withdraw money or buy the cards, that is an example of urgency.   And once you purchase the cards, they will ask you for the information on them.  That is so they can use the information to purchase things online where they don’t need the physical card to purchase goods.

When receiving calls, whatever the reason (threatening arrest, a relative in trouble, taxes not paid, or any other potentially scary situation), they will say that time is short and actions must be taken immediately.  The scammers make it sound like it is bad, and must be resolved right away.

Change the Control of Power on the Call

The scammers are counting on at least four things to get money out of you quickly: convincing you they and the situation are real; something bad as a consequence of not helping them; urgency of the situation; and the use of a money transfer method that cannot be reversed.  By knowing these characteristics, you can counteract them.

The easiest way to counteract all of these at once is to end the call and just hang up.   If you think the situation might actually be real, then look up the organizations phone number (not any number the caller gave you) online and call them directly to ask.  Alternatively, you can contact your local police to ask about the validity of the call.

Control the urgency by taking a breath and calmly ending the call after finding out what is required.  Then think about what the situation is and what is being requested, and TAKE YOUR TIME.  Even in a supposed accident or abandonment situation, spending a day to validate a crisis situation will not cause irreparable harm.

Remove the money aspect by not purchasing any pre-paid cards.  Or send money via wire transfer, Venmo, PayPal or other method until you’ve validated the need for the transaction.  No use giving your money away!

Scams cost Americans almost $20 Billion (with a “B”) dollars last year according to  Don’t lose any of your hard-earned money in this way!