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Posted on OCT 19, 2018

Are You Being Scammed?

Learn how to prepare and protect yourself from scammers.

There's a good chance that you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud. Alarming statistics released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Javelin Strategy & Research, show there were 16.7 million identity fraud victims in the United States in 2017. In the event a scammer targets you, your family or friends, make sure that you are equipped with the right knowledge to detect a scam before it escalates.

A few popular scams and their warning signs:

Fake Checks

Fake checks drive many types of scams. These are often a result of phony prize wins, fake jobs, mystery shoppers or online classified ad sales. In the case of a fake check scam, a person you don't know may ask you to deposit a check or wire money back to them, often in an amount that is greater than what you are owed. The scammer may share a convincing story to explain the overpayment—they are out of the country; they need you to cover taxes or fees; they need to buy supplies, etc. Don't be fooled. If you receive a check and are then asked to send back money, it's a scam.

What you need to do:

  • Talk to someone you trust. Contact your financial institution before you agree to do anything.
  • Never accept a check for more than what you are asking.
  • If you are selling an item online, be sure to use a trusted online payment service.
  • Never send money back to someone who has sent you a check.

Tech Support

Tech support scammers try to appear legitimate by pretending to know about a problem on your computer or asking you to open up a normal file that looks alarming. They may convince you to pay for fake computer help or provide sensitive personal information. In addition, a tech support scammer who has access to your computer can install malware. These programs can cause your device to crash, and can be used to monitor and control your online activity.

What you need to know:

  • Companies like Microsoft don't call and ask for access to your computer. If you get a call like this, it's a scam.
  • Real companies also won't ask for your account passwords. Only scammers do.
  • If you need computer help, go directly to a person or business you know you can trust.
  • Download security updates as soon as they are available.

Sweethearts and Online Dating

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince you to send money in the name of love. These relationships may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart claims love in a heartbeat or requests money for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel.

What you need to do:

  • Slow down and talk to someone you trust. Don't let a scammer rush you.
  • Never wire money, put money on a gift card or send cash to an online love interest.
  • Contact your financial institution right away if you think you've sent money to a scammer.
  • Report your experience to the online dating site, the local police or the Federal Trade Commission.

A Call from Your Financial Institution

A scammer may also try to disguise themselves as your trusted financial partner by requesting social security numbers or credit or debit card information over the phone. The caller ID for the call may even say the name of your financial institution. However, many scammers use caller ID spoofing to match their phone number to your bank's number. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your trusted financial institution or their fraud department, you should never hand over identifying information such as social security numbers, credit or debit card expiration dates, security codes or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Your financial institution will never call asking for specific personal information. However, they may call to alert you to potential fraud related to your account and ask you to confirm specific transactions to ensure fraud hasn't occurred.

Scammers will use personal details obtained from these calls to wreak havoc with your information, including initiating ATM withdrawals, online transactions, new account openings, loans, or fraudulent tax refunds.

What you need to do:

  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your financial institution, never provide them with any personal information such as social security numbers, card expiration dates, security codes or PINs.
  • If you are unsure about a request, tell the other party you will call them back. Then verify and identify your financial institution's phone number from a trusted source—the back of your card, an account statement of your financial institution's website. Call and express your concern.
  • Regularly check your bank accounts via online or mobile banking to confirm a compromise in real time.

Contact your advisor or the Johnson Financial Group Customer Support Center at 888.769.3796 if you believe you've been a victim of a scam. To learn more about recent scams and to recognize warning signs, visit the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information on Scams at consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.