Becoming a victim of identity theft or a money scam can easily turn your finances into a complete mess. Your credit score can be ruined, and you may even lose money as a result of a scam. The good news is that a lot of cases of identity theft can be avoided, but awareness is key to not becoming a victim. By recognizing and knowing about some of the more common identity theft scams ahead of time, you can take action and not fall victim to a scam artist. Some identity theft and money scams to be aware of include:
Foreign lottery scam
Foreign lottery scams usually arrive via email, but you might also receive a letter or check in the mail. With these types of scams, the recipient is told that he or she has won a large amount of money in a lottery or a contest. Usually, the lottery is based in another country, and the recipient may or may not have visited that country in the past. The letters will often claim that your name and contact information was chosen at random and that you’re the “lucky winner.” The letters then provide instructions on how to collect those winnings, and will usually include depositing a fraudulent check or offering sensitive data, such as bank account information. Ignore these letters at all costs, as this is one of the more common identity theft scams that still circulate and target new victims.
Nigerian letter or “419” fraud
If you check your email’s spam box, you’ll likely find at least one of these emails hiding in there. This is a classic money scam that has been around for years, and continues to circulate. With this scam, people will receive an email from someone in another country—often Nigeria. The sender claims that they have recently inherited a very large fortune, but they need someone to help them “transfer” it out of the country. They offer to share the large fortune with the recipient, but they just need a bank account to deposit the money in. The email will then proceed to ask for sensitive bank account data, or in other cases, will ask that the recipient send money for “transfer fees” in advance.
Phishing is any type of communication, usually an email, in which a scam artist will attempt to get sensitive information from the recipient. Foreign lottery scams are a common type of phishing scam, but there are a lot of other examples of phishing, and may attempt to get someone’s passwords, credit card information, and so on. Many people will fall victim to phishing scams when they receive an email from what appears to be their bank, credit card, or a common money service, such as PayPal. The email will prompt users to log in to their accounts and update their information, and a lot of the time, the emails look completely legitimate. The emails often express some level of urgency, and claim that if you don’t update your information, your account will be suspended. The link doesn’t actually go to the website it claims to, but instead, it goes to a mirrored website. Even if the URL looks accurate, it’s important to never click on links that you receive in emails and log in from those links. If it’s a phishing email, you won’t actually be logging into your account, and will instead be sending your login information to a hacker. That person can take over your accounts, make charges, send themselves money from your bank, and so on. Whenever you receive an email of this nature, always close it out and enter the URL yourself manually in a new and secure window—don’t click on the link in the email. You should also verify any communications you receive by reaching out to who they claim to be on your own.