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How to Identify and Avoid Common Scams

Have you ever received an email from someone claiming to be royalty from another country? In the email they explain they will inherit millions of dollars, but need your help to get it. They are willing to compensate you by sending money to your bank account, but they need personal financial information to complete the transaction.

You already know this email isn’t legitimate, yet there are many more scams being perpetrated by criminals that are far more convincing. Learning to identify and avoid these scams is the first step in protecting yourself from these fraudulent schemes.

Phone Scams

Scammers who operate by telephone can seem more legitimate and are typically very persuasive. To draw you into their scam, they may:

  • Use a pre-recorded message or robocall
  • Sound friendly, call you by your first name and make small talk to get to know you
  • Claim to work for a company or organization you trust, such as a bank, a utility company, the police department or a government agency
  • Threaten you with a fine or charge that must be paid immediately
  • Mention an exaggerated or fake prize, product or service, such as credit or a loan, extended car warranty, charitable cause or computer support
  • Ask for login credentials, a personal information number (PIN) or other sensitive information
  • Request a payment using odd methods, like gift cards

If you receive a suspicious phone call or recorded robocall you were not expecting, the easiest way to resolve it is to hang up the phone. If you are concerned the call may have been legitimate, you should contact customer service or login to your account in question to investigate the caller’s claims.

Email Scams

Sometimes referred to as phishing emails, email scams can be very convincing and trick many people into providing personal data. Some signs to look for that may indicate you received a phishing email are when the sender:

  • Asks for personal or financial information and requests you act immediately, offering something that sounds too good to be true in return
  • Claims to be from your workplace’s executive leadership and requests personal information about you or your colleagues that you have already submitted or asks you to click on a link for more information
  • Includes typos, vague or overgeneralized wording and nonspecific greetings like “Dear customer” in the email 

Beware that many scam and phishing emails look legitimate! An email pretending to be a company might contain logos, images or text that appear similar to the company’s emails. If you are unsure about an email you received, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Always hover your mouse over the link to see if it will direct you to a legitimate website
  • Do not click any links or open attachments in emails you were not expecting
  • Do not enter any personal, financial or login information when prompted by an unsolicited email
  • Do not respond to or forward emails you suspect to be a scam
  • If in doubt, contact the person or organization the email claims to have been sent by using contact information you find on their official website

If you receive scam phone calls or phishing emails at work, let your organization’s security or Information Technology team know so they can help protect others from these scams. To be extra vigilant, you can register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry at https://www.ftc.gov/donotcall. Be sure to pass this information on to educate your friends, co-workers, children, parents and grandparents on ways to identify and avoid these scams.