New Twists on Old Financial Scams
While it’s true financial scams and fraud happen throughout the year, scammers are especially active during the holiday season because they know people are busy and feeling stressed, which leaves them vulnerable to being caught off guard.
Caller ID Spoofing – It used to be you could count on caller ID to be accurate. Not anymore. It’s now possible for scammers to buy access to a service that allows them to make it appear as though they’re calling from a legitimate number when they’re not. So if you see a call that says it’s from your bank or credit card company, it might not be. Simply ignore the call and let them leave a message, or tell the caller you will call back, then make the call using a number you look up yourself.
Phishing – Though most of us are wise enough to know we haven’t inherited millions from a Nigerian prince, email phishing scams are still alive and well. They tend to spike after a large-scale data breach (like those at Target or Home Depot) or natural disasters. Just remember, your bank, credit union, credit card company or any other legitimate financial institution will never ask you to share personal information, account numbers or your Social Security number via email.
IRS Scams – Scammers love to pretend they’re from the IRS, because they know it’s something most people won’t ignore. A current scam involves scammers leaving aggressive messages claiming to be IRS agents, complete with bogus “badge” numbers, demanding immediate payment for back taxes via pre-paid debit card or wire transfer, and threatening arrest if you don’t comply. But know this, even if you do owe taxes or have another IRS issue, the IRS will never call on the phone to demand immediate payment. Instead, they will initiate contact via certified or registered email to begin the process. You can keep up on the latest IRS scams here.
Charity Scams — Our desire to be giving and charitable this time of year can leave us vulnerable to holiday scams. Bogus charities will solicit donations in a number of ways, including through emails, text messages, phone calls and even snail mail. The best way to protect yourself is to only give to established charities that you’ve personally vetted or check Charity Navigator to verify a charity’s legitimacy.