Scamming is a business that never has an off season; it’s a year-round activity and anyone has an equal opportunity to be defrauded out of money or have their financial accounts illegally accessed and funds stolen. Scammers are experienced, polished and professional, they are quite good at what they do.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2022 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, “In 2022, people filed more reports about Identity Theft (21.5% of all reports), in all its various forms, than any other type of complaint. Imposter Scams, a subset of Fraud reports, followed with 725,989 reports from consumers in 2022 (14.1% of all reports).” The Data Book goes on to report that “In 2022, people reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud – an increase of nearly $2.6 billion over 2021.” So scamming the U.S. public continues to be a big and growing business. While scammers are inventive and always coming up with a new scheme to separate consumers from their money, these fraudsters still rely on some time-tested, classic approaches to fooling their intended victims. There are some basic clues that you can look out for that can assist in revealing a scam is underway and prevent its completion. So what activities should trigger suspicion that you’re being targeted in a scam? Here are a few:
Some clues that you’re being scammed
- Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know, usually either a company, charity or a U.S. government department. You get a cellphone call (or email or text message) from either your bank, credit union, credit card company, utility or technology company, a charity or some branch of the U.S. government, such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—or the scammer makes up a name that sounds official. Their phone number shows up as being the number of a company you have accounts with or a U.S. government office, but it’s a fake number.
- Scammers will always say there’s a severe problem with a financial account or taxes that must be fixed with money, that a relative is in trouble, or that you have won a prize—but for some reason you must pay before you can get the “free” prize. These imposters might say you’re in trouble with the government and you owe it money, such as for unpaid back taxes. They may say they are a doctor, lawyer or law enforcement official and that someone in your family had an emergency. Scammers will claim to somehow know that there’s a virus on your personal computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you just need to verify some sensitive personal information to help resolve the problem. Other scammers will lie with good news, and they say that you won money in a lottery (the lottery is usually in another country, because that information is harder to verify) or in a sweepstakes, but first it’s absolutely necessary for you to pay money before you can claim the prize, maybe because you must pay taxes on the money before you are allowed to receive it.
- Scammers will push hard for you to do something immediately; there can be no delay and you must act now because the problem is happening right now. Scammers use high-pressure tactics to convince you to act before you have time to think about what they are saying or thoughtfully consider your response. If you’re on the phone, the scammers will tell you not to hang up, so you can’t validate their story from other information sources. To intimidate you into helping immediately, scammers might threaten to send law enforcement staff to your home to arrest you now, sue you for back taxes, revoke your driver’s license or Social Security number, or deport you. They could instead say your computer is infected with a virus, and all your files (photographs, documents, sound and video files) will be totally destroyed soon, or your financial accounts hijacked unless they are paid during the call to cure the infection.
- Scammers may insist on a very specific—and unusual—type of payment, something that many legitimate companies or the U.S. or a state government would not use. Rather than a personal or bank check, or a credit card, scammers will often strongly insist that they be paid through a fast money transfer service or by buying gift cards and then giving them the card number on the back. Another payment form used by scammers is cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum and others. Scammers may also send you a paper check (that is fake), then instruct you to deposit it and next send them back money electronically quickly before their check has had time to clear.
- Scammers need payment instantly through a digital platform, network, service or app. Scammers want money from you instantly and electronically, and they will insist that they don’t have time to accept a paper check from you or sent from your credit union or bank. The scammers need their money from Cash App, Venmo, PayPal®, Western Union Financial Services, Inc., MoneyGram®, or through one of the many other means of transmitting funds quickly. Some of these transactions may be very difficult to trace back to the payee, and if fraud occurs, it may be difficult or impossible to reclaim the lost funds; once the money is sent it may be permanently lost to a scammer.
- A scammer wants their communication with you to be completely confidential; you can’t tell anyone about it. Especially for personal emergency, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security number, or immigrant scams, the fraudsters need the situation to be secret; they will claim no one else should know what’s going on because it will alarm family members or friends or publicly humiliate the victim they are tricking. The scammers don’t want the person they are defrauding to contact anyone or look up any information that could invalidate their lies and expose them as imposters.
Contact Delta Community immediately if you’re worried about your accounts
- If you think you’re being scammed on a call, ask questions of the caller, take notes, then hang up and find the number of the organization that supposedly called you, and call it to check whether the call was authentic. Do not call any number the scammer gives you.
- If you think your Delta Community accounts have been compromised, immediately contact our Member Care Center via our toll-free number at 800-544-3328 with whatever details you have, including dates, amounts of money, email messages, email addresses, text messages, phone numbers and names.
- Please remember that Delta Community will never call, text or email you to ask for your checking, savings, investment, ATM, debit or credit card account number or password, your telephone access (IVR) PIN, one-time passcode, or other confidential personal information.
Where to go for help after you’ve been scammed
- If you think someone is trying to defraud you or has already scammed you, collect and report the details (dates and times of contact, emails, phone numbers and phone records, website addresses, text messages, names of contacts or companies that were used), to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- The FTC’s other website, ftc.gov/Money Matters, can also assist in spotting, avoiding, and reporting scams.
- If you have already lost money to a scammer, the FTC has a series of quick steps to take so you can try and recover your funds.
- Another option for anyone who’s been a victim of an internet crime is to report it to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- If you suspect that someone may have stolen your identity and is passing themselves off as you, then visit IdentityTheft.gov. That website is the U.S. government’s one-stop resource for assisting identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you step by step through the identity recovery process.
Be cautious about trusting anyone who contacts you
More information on protecting yourself and your accounts—along with financial guidance—is available from free Delta Community Financial Education Center webinars on many different money-related topics. You can visit the Financial Education Center's Events & Seminars page to register for its no-cost, on-demand webinars.
Delta Community’s blog and security posts have a lot of advice on handling online personal security: