Financial Education Blog

Don’t fall victim to these trending scams

In 2018 alone, the Federal Trade Commission collected more than 1.4 million fraud reports, with victims losing roughly $1.48 billion. That’s a 38 percent increase over 2017. While data for 2019 is not completely available, it should come as no surprise that fraud remains on the rise.

Fraud reports vary, but some of the most common fraud reports pertain to romance and tech support scams. The best line of defense is to be vigilant and to protect yourself. So we’ve compiled information about romance and tech scams to help educate our members.

Romance Scams
More and more people are turning to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. But instead of finding love, many find a scammer trying to trick them out of money. According to the FTC, in 2018, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams—a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC.

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook or Google Hangouts. Scammers will often say they’re living or working outside of the United States, and often ask for money for plane tickets, medical expenses, visas and more. They then ask you to pay by wiring money, with reload cards or with gift cards because they can get cash quickly and remain anonymous.

How to Avoid Losing Money to a Romance Scammer

Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
 
If you suspect a romance scam:
  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “United States Army scammer.”
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.
 If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.
 
Tech Support Scams
Tech support scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. They want you to pay for tech support services you don't need, to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. They often ask you to pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift cardprepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app because they know those types of payments can be hard to reverse.

Spotting and Avoiding Tech Support Scams
Tech support scammers use many different tactics to trick people. Spotting these tactics will help you avoid falling for the scam. These tactics include phone calls, pop-up warning and online ads and listings in search result pages.

Legitimate tech companies won’t contact you by phone, email or text message to tell you there’s a problem with your computer. Moreover, security pop-up warning from real tech companies will never ask you to call a phone number.

Have a Real Problem?
Start with updating your computer’s security software and run a scan to see what it reveals. If you need help fixing a problem, go to someone you know or trust. Many companies offer support online or by phone.

What to Do If You Were Scammed
If you paid a tech support scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or bank right away. Tell them what happened and ask if they can reverse the charges.
If you paid a tech support scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.
 
If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem. If you gave your user name and password to a tech support scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.
 
Don’t forget to report your complaint to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
 
To learn more information about these topics, visit:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-you-need-know-about-romance-scams
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams