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In this workshop, you’ll learn how to detect and protect yourself from scams. You can listen to it here. Continue scrolling to read as well.

Lesson 2: How to spot a scam

Now that you’re familiar with the most common types of scams, let’s go over how to spot their warning signs so you can keep your personal information and money safe.

With any form of fraud, there are often warning signs — or “red flags” — that are clues that something is not what it seems. Always be on the lookout for the following tactics criminal scammers use to steal from you.

Did you know scammers can use robocall technology to call tens of thousands of people at a time? They can also fake or “spoof” the Caller ID information that appears on your incoming calls. A “spoof” call may show up on your Caller ID as being from the Social Security Administration, Microsoft or a local area code, making you think it’s a friend or neighbor who’s calling.

Unless the call is from someone you know — family, friends, your doctor or pharmacy — let it go to your voicemail or answering machine. Listen to the message carefully, engage your inner skeptic, and decide whether the call sounds legitimate before you return the call.

If the message includes a call-back number, it may lead you to a scammer. Instead, call a number you can validate that belongs to the organization the caller claims to represent. Look up the organization’s phone number in the phonebook, or check statements or other mailings you may have from the organization.

Another major form of fraud is called “phishing.” Phishing scams try to acquire valuable personal and financial data, such as your Social Security number, credit card details or passwords for online accounts. The criminal’s goal is to steal your identity, your money or both.

Phishing is mostly associated with email but can come in many forms, including social media messages, pop-up ads, “vishing” (voice phishing by phone), “smishing” (phishing by text message) and “pharming” (drawing targets to bogus websites). Just as you shouldn’t call back a suspicious phone number, don’t click on any links in fishy-sounding emails, online ads or social media messages.

Avoid divulging any personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you unsolicited, even if they’re using the name of a legitimate entity.

Another scam that’s been active throughout the pandemic is “work from home” scams. They may take the guise of a secret shopper opportunity, a gig to do some light accounting work, or some other form. The scammer will send you money – typically in the form of a check, and direct you to deposit it. Once it appears to have “cleared” your bank, they direct you to send the money to “vendors” or use it to buy gift cards at a retail store, and to share the activation details off the back of the card. Eventually, you find that the check has bounced because it was fake, and the money you sent to the “vendor” or to buy gift cards was your own, and it is long gone.

Remember, if you can SPOT a scam, you can STOP a scam.

Read more for a few simple ways to detect a scam and protect yourself from fraudsters.

  • Step 1

    Familiarize yourself with the most common types of scams and be on the lookout for them.

  • Step 2

    Learn the “red flags” of a scam, such as an unsolicited call from an agency or a check in the mail.

  • Step 3

    Identify the ways that scammers approach their victims — through email, phone, text, and websites.

  • Step 4

    Don’t share personal or financial information over the phone or online to unsolicited contacts. Be careful about what you share online and on the phone. Don’t share personal information like your home address or financial information as this can lead to identity theft.

  • Step 5

    Continue to educate yourself on new types of scams.

Now that you’ve learned which warning signs to watch out for, test yourself. Take the three-question quiz at the bottom of the webpage. Once you’ve answered and clicked to get your quiz results, you’ll be ready for Lesson 3: How to Protect Yourself from a Scam. Just click “Next Lesson.”

Can you spot a scam?

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