Broker Check

How to avoid scams

April 11, 2024

Scammers use different tactics to get victims to fall for their schemes, some friendly, some fearful. They may target you through fake emails, text messages, voice calls, device pop-ups, letters, or even in person. Knowledge is a powerful defense. Read below to learn about trending scams, the red flags to look for, and to help protect yourself.

Know the scams

Imposter

Scammers may pose as businesses or people you know — like your bank, utility company, phone provider or even a friend or relative. They'll spoof legitimate phone numbers to call or text and tell you to send funds to yourself or others using online or mobile banking. They may even tell you to ignore or bypass security warnings and alerts. If you share information, they may use it to enroll in new products or services in your name.

Tip: Stop and verify. While we may contact you to validate unusual activity, we will never contact you to request that you share a code over the phone or send us or anyone else money.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Scammers may use AI to mimic the voice of a loved one or someone you know, claiming they are in danger and need money immediately.

Tip: Consider using a safe word or phrase that only you and your family members know, and stay vigilant about requests to send money through untraceable means.

Romance Scams

Romance scammers who've established relationships with you online make an emotional plea asking you to transfer money, typically through a payment app, wire transfer or gift cards.

Tip: Be vigilant about requests for money from someone you recently met, especially if they ask you to send money using untraceable means.

Tax Season Scams

Scammers may impersonate government officials and tell you that you either owe money or need a refund. All they need is your account information.

Tip: The IRS won't contact taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. Always verify requests for information.

Rental Scams

Imagine showing up to your new home or dream vacation to find out it doesn't exist or you've been double booked. Scammers may take over existing listings or create fake ones.

Tip: Do your research. Is the listing vague? Do the photos have watermarks? Does the rent seem too low? Be concerned if pressured to send a security deposit or make a payment, with no background check or signing of a contract or lease.

Multi-step scams

Scammers are now combining multiple scam types, taking a phased approach to try to gain your trust and make scams even more convincing:

  • It begins with a tech support scam. The impersonator claims to be from a legitimate tech support company and claims your computer has been hacked. They'll ask you to call a number and download software allowing them remote access to your computer to resolve the "issue". Then they'll ask you to log into your account and look for fraudulent charges.
  • It’s followed by a bank imposter. Next, you'll receive a call from an imposter claiming to be from your bank, saying fraud is happening on your account. They'll tell you to electronically move money to a "safe account", such as one with the Federal Reserve or another U.S. government agency.
  • Then comes a government imposter. You'll receive a third call from another imposter claiming to be a government official who is confirming the transaction. They may even send you an email or letter to make the scam look more legitimate.

Tip: Don't download software or provide remote access to anyone you don't know. We will never call you to request that you move money to protect yourself from fraud.

Online Sales

Whether you're thinking about purchasing event tickets, adopting an animal or just browsing the web, be cautious if you see an online promotion that sounds too good to be true – it probably is.

Tip: Slow down and use caution if pressured to act quickly – scammers want you to act without thinking about the consequences. Research the seller and products independently, check reviews for possible scam notices and compare prices with other websites. Make sure they have a refund policy, information on privacy terms and conditions, and ways you can contact them.

Social Media

Cybercriminals are actively using social media platforms where they design posts or craft messaging that lures you into sharing personal information or scams you out of money.

Tip: Be mindful about sharing personal information and what you see on social media. If something seems too good to be true, it’s most likely a scam.

Issues with package delivery

You receive an email or text indicating an issue with your package or a failed delivery attempt. You'll be asked to click a link to pay a small fee or provide personal information.

Tip: Do not open unfamiliar links for payment or personal information, this may be a phishing attempt.

Donating money to a cause

Use caution if asked to donate money in person or to a cause, using your phone. You'll be told to log into your banking app but then told to hand over your phone for the "representative" to input the charity's information and complete the transaction for you – but the scammer is sometimes actually sending money to themselves.

Tip: Don't hand over your device to anyone to complete a transaction and never ignore bank warning messages.

Investment

Be wary if you are contacted by an "investment manager" or receive an unsolicited request (through social media, pop-up, text, email or phone call) that presents a "great investment opportunity." Offers that promise guaranteed returns, or the chance to get rich quick or double your money are likely scams.

Tip: Always validate requests for money, research investment managers/offers and use caution if asked to provide personal or financial information, especially if asked to send money through digital currency/cryptocurrency or instant money transfers.

Tech support

If you receive an unsolicited request to access your computer or mobile device remotely, it's probably a scam – and you could lose money. Scammers often pose as employees of familiar companies and ask you to provide remote access or download an app. They may call, use pop-up screens or email to convince you that your device has a virus or that you're owed money.

Tip: No matter what reason you're given, never download any app or grant device access to someone without confirming their identity by calling a verified phone number (not one they provide to you).

Compromise scams

Scammers may try to target you through a fake business, social media or email account. The cyber criminal may use a hacked or fake account that looks legitimate to trick you into sending funds.

Tips: 

  • Never trust unknown individuals
  • Verify everything
  • Give all requests for funds a second look
  • If an email seems strange, look up the sender and email or call them (don't use the number they provide)
  • Invest in antivirus software that can flag suspicious emails and websites.

Natural Disaster scams

Following a disaster, unlicensed contractors will canvas the impacted areas promising to provide clean up or get repairs done quickly. They may ask for payment up front and not show up to do the work, or have you sign a contract that redirects insurance payouts to them and not you.

Tip: Do your research; get multiple quotes for comparison and make sure the contractors are licensed. Use caution if you're pressured to pay up front for the job or sign over the insurance claim. Ask for proof of ID and remember, if you're asked for financial information, it could be a scam.

Know the red flags that signal a scam

No matter which technique the scammer uses, these red flags should make you pause:

  • You’re contacted unexpectedly by phone, email, text, direct message or pop-up with a request for personal information or money. Never click a link or download an attachment from someone you don't know.
  • You’re pressured to act immediately with an alarming phone call, email or text that plays with your emotions. Scammers may pose as an employee from a familiar organization. Do not act unless you have verified the person who has contacted you and the story or request is legitimate.
  • You’re asked to pay unusually, like gift cards, cryptocurrency, prepaid debit cards or digital currency to resolve fraud. We will never ask you to transfer money because we detected fraud on your account.
  • You’re asked to provide personal or account information, such as an account verification code, bank account number or PIN. When in doubt, don't give it out.
  • You’re offered a free product or get-rich-quick opportunity that seems too good to be true. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never cash a check for someone you don't know.