Columbus — There are thousands of new scams each year, and sometimes, it’s challenging to keep up with all of them.
The Better Business Bureau has 10 tips that when remembered, will more than likely be able to help you avoid most scams, thus protecting yourself and your family.
• Never send money via gift card or wire transfer to someone you have never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. If they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card, those cannot be traced and are as good as cash. Chances are, you won’t see your money again. If someone is trying to convince you to pay this way, stop, get off the phone or the computer, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at FTC.gov and report the activity to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/scamtracker.
• Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. When clicked on, unknown links can download malware onto your computer, smart phone, tablet or whatever electronic device you’re using at the time, allowing cyber thieves to steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it could be fake. Instead, delete it if it looks unfamiliar, and block the sender.
• Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts, and other details. Just because a website or email looks official does not mean that it is. Caller ID is commonly faked.
• Double check that your online purchase is secure before checking out. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Better yet, before shopping on the website, make certain you are on the real site you intended to visit and not a spoofed site. Check out the company first at BBB.org. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you are not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods. Look for a brick and mortar address listing on the website itself and a working phone number. Take an extra step and call the number if it is a business you are not familiar with.
• Use extreme caution when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, Craigslist, social media, and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con to get you to trust them.
• Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you in an unsolicited way, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, or even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social Security or insurance numbers.
• Resist the pressure to act immediately. Shady actors typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push victims to make a decision right now before even thinking it through, asking family members, friends or a financial advisor. Sometimes, they will advise you to avoid contacting anyone and to just “trust” them. While high-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, it typically isn’t a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
• Use secure and traceable transactions. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card, or other non-traditional payment methods (see number one above). Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments, and handshake deals without a contract. Read all of the small print on the contract and make sure to understand what the terms are.
• Whenever possible, work with local businesses. Ask that they have proper identification, licensing, and insurance, especially contractors who will be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Review Business Profiles at BBB.org to see what other people have experienced.
• Be cautious about what you share on social media. Consider only connecting with people you already know. Check the privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you. Then, update and change passwords to passphrases on a regular basis on all online accounts.
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker and check bbb.org for more information on how to avoid scams.
For more information, follow BBB on Facebook, Twitter or TrustLocal.org.