Scams are increasing at an alarming rate! The electronic age has given criminals several avenues to scam young and old alike out of their hard earned money. Scammers can steal your information but they don’t have to do that to scam you out of thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am going to touch on a few of the scams that are out there. I’m sure there are more but here are a few to watch for and I hope it helps you protect your hard earned dollars.
The first category is the Too Good to Be True Investment Scams. There are a few of these out there but they are all too good to be true. The first one is the pyramid or Ponzi scheme. Most of you have heard of this one in the past. It is named after Charles Ponzi and it was recently popularized by Bernie Madoff. The scammer entices people with high earnings (too good to be true). This scheme creates earnings based on how many people sign up for the scheme. The scammer takes the money from the people that most recently signed up to pay the previous people that signed up. There is no real interest rate return for your money so the scam eventually blows up and the “investors” lose their money. These schemes are illegal.
The second Too Good to Be True Scam is the lunch or dinner presentation. In this scam the scammer offers some sort of investment opportunity and uses high pressure sales tactics to close the deal. In my experience if they are using high pressure sales tactics to sell their investment opportunity then you need to run from that “opportunity”.
The third Too Good to Be True Scam is penny stocks sold online. The scammers entice you with high returns. Then they get you to buy in and when the stock rises the scammers get out of the stock and leave the other investors with worthless investments. The best way to avoid these scams is to work with your trusted financial advisor.
Another category of scams is the Phishing Scam. This involves emails that look genuine and can hit your personal email or your work email. Generally this email will tell you that there is a problem with your bank account or some other financial account like Amazon. They will give you a link to click on so that you can verify your information. This link will take you to a site that looks authentic but it is a fake site that is designed to collect your login information. Do not enter your information! I always tell people that if you get an email like this, you should contact your financial institution using a phone number that you already know and ask them if there is a problem with your bank account. Nine times out of ten there is not a problem. Instead someone is trying to scam you!
Tax scams are another growing type of scam. This happens especially around tax time but can happen any time. You will get a phone call from someone that says that they are from the IRS. They will either demand money or they will try to collect your tax information. This is a scam. The IRS will never call you without prior notification. Again, I tell people to call the IRS using a published number to see if they are truly trying to contact you. Nine times out of ten they are not. Do not give your personal information out over the phone when someone calls you! It may look and sound legitimate but it is not!
Prize Winning scams are another crafty type of scam. Everyone wants to win something and that is what these scammers are counting on. This one can start out as a text or a phone call and they claim that you have won a prize. All you have to do is send them a wire for the processing shipping fees or give them your bank account information so that they can deposit a cash prize. This is a scam! Never give out your bank information to someone that calls you!
Even small businesses fall prey to scammers through fake invoices. They are generally marked “outstanding” so that you pay the invoice right away using your credit card or giving them your bank information. One of the scams for small business is a phone call asking for your credit card number so that your utilities or other bills can get paid before there is a problem. Another scam is when an IT professional calls and says that they need access to your system so that they can correct a problem.
Once you give them access then they install malware or download files from your computer. They won’t call the owner. They call an employee of the company since the employee wouldn’t know if there was truly a problem or not.
Charitable Scams prey on a person’s charitable heart. It is good to be charitable but you need to do a little homework. These scams can take advantage of a natural disaster and can use email, social media, or even door-to-door communication. My suggestion is don’t donate anything until you have a chance to do some homework on the charity. You can always give to the charity later after you have done your homework. Again, they will use pressure tactics like “We need the money now for the children. We don’t have time to wait!”
The Family Emergency Scam often targets grandparents and comes in the form of a phone call, email or text that their grandchild is in trouble and needs money wired right away! The scammer is counting on an emotional plea to get you to send them your bank information. The best way to avoid this scam is to call family members to find out what is going on. These are almost always a scam!
The Mailed Check Scam includes mailing you what looks like a real check. The scammers tell you that they accidently sent you the check for too much money and can you please wire the difference back to them. You wire the difference back to them and then the check is rejected by the bank a few days later. You are out the money you wired to them and of course you don’t get the money from the check that they sent you. Do your homework and act rationally before accepting any money or gifts from someone!
The Free Trial Scam seems pretty harmless right! You get a free trial for the next month or two. What could go wrong? It is free! Well, once the scammer gets your credit card information then they start up auto renew after your free trial. These subscriptions can be difficult to cancel. Also, the scammer now has your credit card information to potentially use for other purposes. Make sure you are dealing with someone that is reputable before going for the free trial.
The Romance Scam is another play on your emotions. This generally plays out over months and it starts gradually. The scammer befriends you online and an actual romance can ensue over time. They learn all about you so that they can determine what might convince you to give them money. They are counting on the fact that you are a kind person. It is hard to spot. Eventually the scammer will ask for money and the reasons they give are hard to refuse. The reason could be urgent medical bills or if you are a dog lover it could be a vet bill for their beloved pet. These are not real people! Never give money to people you haven’t met or do not know well!
Here is one that happened to me! This is the Online Shopping Scam. I was looking for an item that I found on Facebook Marketplace. The price was good and they had many photos. I contacted them and they said that they had moved out of the area and that they arranged for a broker to take care of the sale of the item for them. They would even have the item delivered to me! All I had to do was arrange payment via credit card and they would deliver the item. They said that they wouldn’t charge my credit card until they delivered the item and I had a chance to look it over. Of course my red flag went up and I
contacted Facebook Marketplace and they said that this was a scam and they would take down the advertising for the item. Scammers are pretty crafty! We need to be one step ahead of them.
Contrary to what you might think young adults are more likely to fall victim to financial scams. They are very trusting of anything online. Because of that financial scams involving financial aid have popped up. The scammers generally reference FAFSA applications for student loans and the scammers indicate that there was a problem with their application. Then they ask for financial information like bank account information. Nobody is immune to scammers!
Scams take on all forms and attack all people. They can be online, face-to-face, over the phone, via email and even via text. We all need to be vigilant to avoid these scams. Do your homework by calling phone numbers you know and never give your personal information like social security, credit card, or bank information to someone you do not know or have a strong relationship.
Jeff Brindley is a financial advisor at RWS Financial Group. He contributes his financial column Brindley’s Briefs to Gazeta Dielli every month. You can reach him at 833.797.4636 X137 or via email at Jeff.B@RWSGroup.org.
Securities offered through Registered Representatives of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a broker-dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Jeffrey Brindley, Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor. RWS Financial Group is not affiliated with Cambridge Investment Research.