Scamming, identity theft and fraud are terms that are common vernacular within today’s technology driven communication methods. It seems that every day, you hear of new (and not so new) ways that scammers and con-artists are trying to dupe people out of their hard-earned dollars. In an effort to keep our customers safe, here are a few scams that you should know about.
Smart phones are part of the way we do business today. They are a mini computer, a personal organizer, a bank teller and a multitude of other technology tools all rolled into one hand-sized device. Unfortunately, they are highly susceptible to hacking if you are not careful.
While smart phone brands can differ, they all have one thing in common – data can be delivered through the power cord. And Power-up stations can be a cause for concern given the ease with which information is shared.
The way the scam works is simple. A smart phone user plugs the phone’s USB charging cable into a power station. However, instead of powering up the user’s phone, the hacker uses this as an opportunity to access phone data or infect the phone with malicious code. In addition to giving the hacker access to your private information, the code that is embedded on your phone could also be transferred to your personal computer when it is used to power up or sync your device.
While phishing scams are not new, they continue to impact millions each year. This scam is based on initial communication made via email or social media. The hacker sends a message in an attempt to get the victim to provide login info for online profiles and other login spaces. This could include your banking information, social media channels, work information, cloud based storage and any other site that contains personal information.
The criminals are very good at making the communication look official, duplicating the look of logos, web pages, Facebook sites and other online areas. They will ask you to click on a link that will lead to a very official looking page that could appear to be very legitimate. Once on this page, the unsuspecting victim is often asked to provide online credentials and other valuable information.
The rule here…never give your information to any unsolicited online source. A legitimate offer will also have a phone number you can call for additional information.
‘Tis the season for discount getaways! But if you are not careful, a seemingly good deal could lead to huge headaches. The scam goes something like this: The scammer sends the victim an email for an amazing deal on a dream vacation. The deal expires in a very short time frame causing a great sense of urgency.
The victim is generally duped into the intrigue of a “trip of a lifetime” and misses the fact that there are hidden costs associated after they pay the initial fees. Other scams never send the victim anywhere…they just take the money and run. Your lesson on this scam is to ask questions upfront before paying for anything! If it seems fishy, it probably is.
Have you ever had an alert pop up on your computer screen for an anti-virus program that you don’t actually have on your computer? Heed our warning, do not click on it! While it might just be an innocent pop-up window from an online browser, it could also be a form of malware that will infect your computer and could even block your operating system, requesting you pay to get the decryption key. The best defense for this type of scam is to have a good anti-virus software program downloaded on your computer. And, if it looks suspicious, don’t click it.
Fake Check Scams
The fake check scam comes in many different forms. Some people offer to pay you for a service, while others offer an advance on a sweepstakes or other cash award. The thing that all of these cases have in common is that the scammer will request that you send money back to them. They may send you a check and ask you to deposit the check and then wire them a certain amount of the money (for processing fees). These checks can look so real that they might even fool the bank teller. In general, you will be able to withdrawal at least a certain amount of the funds as soon as the check is cashed. It could take several weeks for the bank to discover that the check was fraudulent. By that time, the scammers are long gone and you are on the hook to cover the amount that was withdrawn from your account.
Remember, there is no reason why you should be asked to send money back for a prize you won or be asked to cash a check over the amount owed and offer a cash reimbursement. When in doubt, ask for cash or at the very least accept only checks from local banks.