On a global scale, the vast majority of Americans are either upper-middle income or high income. Many Americans who are classified as “poor” by the U.S. government would be middle income globally, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. (2)
Because of our wealth, scammers in poorer countries target us to make a living. In India, for example, scammers flourish as “call centers” for American businesses that legitimately use Indian services because of their good English and cheaper labor force. The Indian authorities are often not aware of what is happening. (3)
As an American consumer, it is crucial to understand the tactics of scammers in order to keep your finances safe. Let’s look at how scammers work and what to look out for.
Scammers Gain Your Trust
Scammers use many sneaky ways to gain your trust. They may call, email, or text you from numbers that you know as belonging to a well-known business or they may impersonate an acquaintance on a social media platform.
These communications look real because they come from a trusted email address or phone number. You can receive a text from a scammer and it will appear on your phone right below a real text from your actual bank.
Watch Out For:
- Scammers ‘spoof’ real phone numbers or email addresses. They make communications look like they come from your actual bank or a legitimate contact
- If you ask for proof about who they are, they may give you a website address for a “look alike” phishing website. “These types of websites attempt to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account details, passwords and credit card numbers. Even if you think the text might be real, it’s safer not to click on any links, and to log into your account by typing your bank’s URL directly into the address bar.” (4)
- They give you a phone number to contact for verification that has another scammer on the end of the line. Only contact numbers on your actual bank’s website. Never call numbers on a link that you have been given even if it looks like your bank’s website.
- Scammers work extensively on learning how to gain your trust on a phone call. They may speak good English and know just what to say to sound legitimate.
Scammers Create Urgency
Scammers often create a sense of urgency making you feel like you need to do something right now or you will lose the chance to take care of a major problem. They may try to instill fear that your bank account has been hacked or that someone you know is in danger.
According to a NY Times article, “In 2019, Kathleen Langer,, an elderly grandmother who lives by herself in Crossville, Tenn., got a phone call from a person who said he worked in the refund department of her computer manufacturer. The reason for the call, he explained, was to process a refund the company owed Langer for antivirus and anti-hacking protection that had been sold to her and was now being discontinued. Langer, who has a warm and kind voice, couldn’t remember purchasing the plan in question, but at her age, she didn’t quite trust her memory. She had no reason to doubt the caller, who spoke with an Indian accent and said his name was Roger.”
“Roger” made her feel like he was helping her out and had answers to a problem with her computer. He told her that her computer would stop working if she didn’t help him remove the software. He managed to get remote access to her computer with her permission and actually tried to have her log in to her bank account. When his tactics did not work, he asked her to visit her bank personally. Thankfully, she became wise to the ruse and shut him down. However, he locked her computer and threatened to keep it locked if she did not cooperate! (3)
These types of situations are occuring all across the U.S. so you must stay vigilant to scammer’s tactics.
Some Things Are Too Good to Be True
If you are considering a purchase online, look at the details and do some fact checking before purchasing. When a site offers you something that sounds too good to be true — like a prize for accumulating points, money for winning a competition, or an invitation to invest in the bottom level of a get rich quick idea, just say NO.
Some tell-tale signs to watch for include:
- “Https” in the URL means that the site has a valid security certificate. However, they could still be scammers!
- Make sure that any pictures you see of merchandise were not just copied from somewhere else online. If they are selling you a cat, for example, they should be able to send you authentic and unique pictures showing that they actually have that particular cat in their possession.
- Don’t pay with methods that scammers use. Never wire money or transfer money from your bank no matter what someone tells you. Always use a secure payment method like PayPal or a credit card.
- Don’t buy from someone you “know” online unless they meet every other criteria for safety. “Knowing” someone online and in person are two different things.
- If there is no local pickup option, opt out. This is a bad sign.
How to Tell If It Is Legitimate
- A text or email provides information only. There should be no links to take you elsewhere.
- A text or email may ask you to log into your account but will provide no links.
- A legitimate business will not request you to do anything other than what you would normally do.
- They will not ask for personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, pins, log ins, etc.
- They will not request remote access to your computer or phone.
- They do not have bad grammar or odd language that a legitimate business would not use.
- They won’t ask you to pay for something in advance with a wire, bank transfer, gift cards, or a cryptocurrency.
- They will not change payment details after you have agreed on a safe payment method.
Keeping safe online is only possible if you remain vigilant. Scammers update and change their methods with the times. New and better schemes are invented every year by desperate people who live in poorer countries. Don’t fall prey.
If you think that you have been scammed by someone trying to steal money or your identity, contact an attorney at LawZebra for a free consultation. We work to protect you from fraudulent companies who prey on innocent or well-meaning people. We don’t rest until we find justice for you.