Info on the latest scams
As the economy crawls back and unemployment continues to be a challenge, many of the most common digital scams unfortunately target those most in need. But if we stay up on the latest cyber-crime tactics, we can help our family and friends stay out of harm’s way. Here are a few examples of recent digital scams and some ways to avoid them.
With the nation largely getting back to business, employers were on the hunt for good workers to fill their ranks. This led to a flurry of job postings, many of which offered attractive perks to lure the best candidates. But if some of these postings looked too good to be true, it’s because sometimes they were.
According to the FBI’s Crime Complaint Center (IC3), over 16,000 people reported being victims of employment scams in 2020, with losses totaling $59 million. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) also tracked employment scams and found a 27% increase from 2018-2020, costing Americans about $2 billion per year.
While employment scams vary, they tend to use similar approaches. They begin with the scammer creating an identical website of a well-known business or organization. The scammer then purchases a domain name similar to the business, such as AmazonUS.com or Google.com.
Once the foundation is set, the scammers post job listings on popular job boards. Indeed is the most popular platform, making up 32% of these fake job listings, followed by LinkedIn (7%) and Facebook (6%).
When an applicant replies to a fake posting, the scammer requests personal information as part of the “interview” process. Scammers then use this personal information for a variety of nefarious means, such as identity theft and bank fraud.
HOW TO STAY SAFE
First off, be skeptical of interviews not conducted in person or through a secured video line. Not to say that all virtual interviews are scams, but most employment scams begin this way. If you find yourself in a virtual interview, ask lots of questions and perform extensive research about the company beforehand.
You should also carefully inspect correspondence for grammar and spelling mistakes, which can be red flags indicating a scam. Also be wary if you hear back from the company the same day you applied, as only 4% of all companies reply within a day.
The FBI provides a list of additional protections to keep you safe from employment scams. These include:
- Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.
- Never provide credit card information to an employer.
- Never provide bank account information to employers without verifying their identity.
- Do not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
- Never share your Social Security number or other personal identifiable information (PII) that can be used to access your accounts with someone who does not need to know this information.
- Before entering PII online, make sure the website is secure by looking at the address bar. The address should begin with “https://”, not “http://”.
GOVERNMENT IMPOSTER SCAMS
Due to the economic devastation wrought by COVID- 19, the government stepped up their efforts to reach those most in need. As a result, it’s become more commonplace to communicate with a government agency. However,
this has opened an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the confusing patchwork of federal and state programs.
An AARP survey found that 47% of adults have been targeted by an imposter scam, with almost half of the cases involving a government agency. Social Security made up the largest percentage since the program casts the widest net.
A government imposter scam typically begins with the scammer contacting you through mail or email and claiming to represent a government agency, such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Oftentimes, the correspondence includes an “employee ID” to lend a more official air to the scam. The end goal is for the scammer to obtain your personal information, which can be used for any number of malicious activities.
HOW TO STAY SAFE
A general rule regarding government correspondence is to err on the side of caution. No government agency will send you unsolicited information without you first taking action. Especially beware of any calls, emails, or texts requesting money or personal information on behalf of a government agency. This includes correspondence that threatens to suspend your services.
If you find yourself the target of a government imposter scam, you’ll want to report it immediately
to the appropriate government agency. You can also submit the scam to identitytheft.gov, which compiles a comprehensive list of digital scams to keep others safe.
Perhaps you remember those letters that would announce “YOU COULD ALREADY BE A WINNER!”? The trick is the same, only the tactics have changed, making
it more difficult to parse out. With the internet and easy access to digital editing tools, scammers can impersonate real organizations like Publishers Clearing House or state lottery commissions.
HOW TO STAY SAFE
Much like a government imposter scam, you’ll want to be wary of any unsolicited mail or email, especially those that ask for money or private information. If
you’re not sure if the messages are real, search for the organization’s contact information online and reach out to ask about the solicitation.
You’ll also want to check where the emails are coming from. Many lottery scams originate from foreign countries, with Jamaica being the most popular, along with Costa Rica, and Nigeria.
When it comes to lottery scams, the best option is to avoid them altogether. But if you’ve been targeted by a lottery scam, there are a few steps you should take.
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- If you received communication by mail, report it to US Postal Inspection Service
- Report your case to IdentityTheft.gov
This way, you can make sure that others stay out of the clutches of the scammers.