Don't Get Fooled!
It's April Fool's Day, so we thought we'd talk a little bit about financial scams and how to protect yourself. Our friend, Cindy Lamar, has done a guest post talking about a recent scam and offering thoughts on how you might be able to avoid them.
Be Careful Out There - Scams Happen All Day Every Day
Most of us have learned to recognize shady emails with their typos and off-brand tone. We are leery of unsolicited offers and are careful about who we let follow us on social media. Still scams are increasing at an alarming rate, and scammers have grown more sophisticated.
These predators have formed companies that employ people who know how to use psychology, technology, and emotional intelligence to deceive even the smartest amongst us. Their schemes are elaborate, with many operating internationally.
The Federal Trade Commission just released new data that it received fraud reports from more than 2.8 billion consumers last year (2022).
How do fraud and scams happen? The top five are
● Imposter scams
● Shopping scams
● Prizes, lotteries, and sweepstakes
● Internet services
● Business and job opportunities
Methods of contact vary, with some starting as a phone call, some scammers come right to your door, while others are launched on social media.
A couple consulted for this post said their scam began with a cyber attack, during which a very loud alarm sounded from one of their computers as a pop-up displayed instructions on what NOT to do, seemingly coming from a large, well-known technology company. The pop-up contained an 1-800 number to call, which they later learned is never a feature included in a true tech support message.
That first call for help led to contact with several imposters, posing as tech support, a bank fraud representative, and a government official who together had hacked their email, intercepted their phone calls and socially engineered them into believing they were helping them avoid a scam - while instead they were the scammers. The result was a devastating financial loss and a lingering trauma that has left both of them distrustful of technology and people.
Think you’re too smart or tech savvy for this to happen to you? Think again. These scammers are professionals trained to prey on your fears, often threatening you with harm, or threats aimed at your loved ones. They even scare you with false repercussions from being implicated in horrible crimes because your identity was stolen, a key component of these crimes.
Who can get scammed? Anyone!
According to a report published by the Federal Trade Commission (2022), scams happen to all age groups, with some types of scams happening more to younger adults 18-59, as opposed to those over 60. Everyone needs to take it upon themselves to learn about scams to protect themselves and the community. Unfortunately, you have to keep learning about scams because scammers are creative and the scams continually evolve.
What can you do to be safe? Keep an eye on your finances.
Below are some steps you can follow that may add additional security to your technology:
● You may want to buy and install software created to scan all of your digital devices and quarantine malware, viruses and other types of attacks. Be sure to keep that software updated!
● Consider changing and protecting your passwords and adding two-step authentication to important accounts.
● Consider adding a layer of protection to your wi-fi network. Some providers have apps that can show you who is on your network and allow you to block anyone that shouldn’t be there.
● You may want to keep in touch with credit reporting companies to make sure you know your account statuses.
Financial institutions have been so inundated with fraud and scam complaints that they are providing information to help you protect yourself and inform you of what to do if you become a victim.
If you do become a victim, report it to local law enforcement, notify your financial institutions, and the IRS.
If you haven’t yet been scammed, consider yourself fortunate, then educate yourself about scams and fraud to help keep it that way.
Here at Ella Financial Advising, we closely monitor the investment accounts we manage, and we reach out if we notice anything -- even something as simple as an email change (we confirm it's you). We also stay up-to-date on the latest scams. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us immediately if you notice anything suspicious or if your email, computer, or phone is compromised.
Ella is on maternity leave from March 1, 2023 to July 5, 2023. For those keeping up with the updates, Baby Girl is staying put. We will likely end up with an April baby at this rate, even though Ella was due March 21st!
While she's out, Erin--our operations manager--will be holding down the fort. Feel free to reach out to her with questions, concerns, or comments.
(2022 Feb 22 ). New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports from Consumers in 2021. Federal Trade Commission. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2022/02/new-data-shows-ftc-received-28-million-fraud-reports-consumers-2021-0
(2022 Dec 8). Who experiences scams? A story for all ages. Federal Trade Commission. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/data-visualizations/data-spotlight/2022/12/who-experiences-scams-story-all-ages