It’s not your imagination – scammers are everywhere these days looking for opportunities to defraud you out of your hard-earned money. In fact, a recent report estimates that in 2022, Americans lost almost $40 billion to phone scams alone.
According to Micheal Bruemmer, VP of Experian Data Breach Resolution and Consumer Protection, here are the most prevalent scams to be in the watch for in 2023.
- Charitable donations scam – This type of scam plays on your sense of empathy and desire to help others. You may either receive an email request that looks like it is from a legitimate charity, or be approached over the phone or in person to play on your emotions. Be sure to research any charity before you donate and look for the employer identification number (EIN) on the organization’s website to ensure your donation is going to the right place.
- Romance scams – Romance scams are especially cruel, breaking the victim’s heart and stealing their money at the same time. People typically meet romance scammers on online dating sites or social media platforms. These scammers will quickly profess their love for you, and then, at some point, will ask you for money with specific forms of payment (such as wire transfer, cryptocurrency, preloaded gift cards or cash.) They will claim to need money for an urgent reason and tend to be very persistent. To protect yourself, don’t ever send money to someone you have never met in person, and be extra cautious and slow with online relationships.
- Fitness and weight loss scams – You should always be skeptical of miracle weight loss products or fitness programs with amazing claims. These scams play on your desire to get in shape fast, and often come in the form of a fake website that promotes the weight loss product or program, and asks for your personal information and credit card number to sign up. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
- Car warranty scams – Chances are, you’ve already received some of these spam calls where someone is “trying to reach you to discuss your car’s extended warranty.” This is a one of the most prevalent scams in the world right now, where the scammers will either collect your personal info or sell you a fake warranty. If you get one of these robo calls, simply hang up or, even better, don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- Gift card scams – If you’ve ever given or received a gift card that had no funds on it, you aren’t alone. A recent AARP survey said that 26% of US consumers have received gift cards that have no money on them. Scammers sometimes tamper with gift cards in store to steal their barcodes, or they may operate a fraudulent gift card exchange site. When you buy a gift card, make sure it doesn’t look like it’s been tampered with and be sure to buy cards from trusted brands or resellers.
Many of the above scams take place via phishing – one of the most popular and dangerous types of scams.
Phishing is the process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers by posing as a person or organization you trust via email. Phishing emails and texts – which have become increasingly sophisticated over the years – often entice users to click on a link or open an attachment containing malicious code, or direct users to fake log-in pages for popular brand sites that look almost identical to the real thing.
Some common phishing scams include:
- Tech support scams – these emails claim you have malware or viruses on your computer and ask you to install software to fix it.
- Clone scams – hackers create almost identical copies of legitimate emails from reputable sources to get you to share private information.
- Spear or whale phishing scams – scammers will target attacks at specific individuals or companies, doing research on the person first to make the email seem credible. Whale phishing is a spear phishing attack aimed at top executives, CEOs, and other high-profile targets.
How to avoid phishing scams
Phishing scams are becoming harder and harder to detect, so it’s important to be vigilant. Here are some tips to foil the phishers.
- Avoid emails that look suspicious. If an email is supposedly from someone you know but it doesn’t sound like them, don’t reply or forward the suspicious message. Call or message them to see if they really sent it.
- Hover – don’t click! – over images and links to see their origination. If the link doesn’t match the real website URL, it is most likely a scam.
- Check the sender’s actual email address. If it has the name misspelled or is a long sequence of numbers and letters, it’s probably not a legitimate email.
- Never provide personal or confidential information via an email and avoid clicking on suspicious links – even if they appear to come from trustworthy sources.
- Watch out for threats, expirations, or deadlines. Hackers often will threaten to shut down your account or say they need information from you immediately to create a sense of urgency or danger. Don’t fall for it.
- Pay attention to email content. While it may look like a message from a trusted brand, a closer look may reveal typos, spelling or grammar errors, or images that don’t look quite right.
Bottom line, scammers often pose as a trusted organization, say there’s a problem with your account (or that you’ve won a prize), pressure you to act immediately, and ask for money in a specific way. Whenever you get an email or text that seems fishy, send to spam, delete it, and don’t engage.
Valley can help
At Valley, we are committed to protecting our customers against cybercrime, identity theft, fraud, and any kind of financial exploitation. We take our customers’ security very seriously, and take significant measures to protect the security of your bank accounts and your personal information.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or you’re unsure, please contact your Banking Team, reach out to Valley Customer Care at 800-522-4100, or connect with us at valley.com/security.