Scams most often present themselves through an email or a phone call, although more and more are showing up as social media posts and messages. If something looks or sounds suspicious, take a moment to reflect and consider its legitimacy.
When in doubt, don’t engage
Rather than engaging with an unexpected and seemingly ﬁshy incoming communication (email, call or social media message), cut oﬀ possible scammers right away by hitting delete, not opening on links, hanging up or simply ignoring them. If you're still curious about their oﬀer, look up the source’s website or phone number and go to or call them directly yourself. Even if you call directly, remain vigilant.
Here are two examples of highly suspicious incoming messages and how to handle:
- Have your ever received a social media message from a friend that felt a little out of the norm? They might express shock that you're in a video and send you a link. Perhaps it’s not a friend, but a person that expresses a desire to “get to know you better,” ﬂatters you with compliments, and asks personal questions. Most often, these messages will include some type of link that looks legitimate, but is actually an attempt to get personal sign-in information by posing as realistic looking sites. Avoid responding to these messages. Instead, call or text friends directly to let them know you’ve received suspicious communications from them.
- Perhaps you've received a call or text from the IRS saying you owe thousands right now. Or a text from your bank, telling you there has been suspicious activity and to follow a link to confirm a transaction. These are giant red flags! Remember, the IRS does not call people to collect tax debts, they send letters. Similarly, while financial institutions may text customers as a means of communication, they may not send text messages that ask you to call back or open a link. A best practice here is to request an official communication by mail or call the number on your bank statement or bank card.
Trust your gut
Some scams may be easy to spot, while some may be tougher to identify.
Debt collectors demanding immediate payment or offering too-good-to-be-true refinance terms can be one of the more difficult scams to spot or avoid focusing on (especially if you're struggling financially). However, you can quickly determine the legitimacy of these calls with three simple steps.
- Try to identify the debt. If you don’t recognize it as yours, pull your credit report — most debts should show up there.
- Ask the caller to identify the name, address, and phone number of the company they are calling from. Legitimate companies will provide this information without hesitation.
- You can also call your creditor directly using the phone number on the back of your card or your monthly billing statement to confirm whether your account has been placed with a debt collection agency.