Recognizing and Protecting Yourself from Common Scams
Ava Bligh, Associate Advisor
As the technology in the world continues to develop at increasingly high rates, it seems as though the level of fraud does as well. A recent study found that 1 in 10 US adults fall victim to a scam or a fraud every year, and 1 in 5 of those adults are aged 65 or older.  Unfortunately, at Horizon Financial, we have come to be familiar with many of the schemes that are being utilized by scammers today on our clients. Below is a list of some of the more common tactics utilized by scammers today, and brief explanations of each so you can be aware of them. Later you will find tips that we feel can help either prevent a scheme taking place or help if you ever find yourself in a scenario like the ones being described.
- Fake Antivirus Software
- These are pop-up advertisements on the internet that claim to be able to both detect and remove malware. If the device’s user accepts this advertisement, then a malicious malware could be downloaded onto the device, which then allows the scammer to access personal information.
- Charity Scam
- These types of scams often increase either when a natural disaster occurs, or around holiday time. Scammers will reach out to people via phone, email, or advertisements, posing as a fake charity that assists people in need during these times.
- Make Money Fast and Easy
- These are too good to be true scenarios that can range from offering annual investment returns of 50% or more, to earning hundreds of dollars with a few minutes work. If a scenario seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
- Debt Collection Scam
- Scammers will reach out, usually by phone, stating a debt needs to be paid immediately. The debt they reference is completely fake, or a debt you’ve already paid. They will offer payment options that cannot be traced, and most likely, will resort to some sort of intimidation technique to scare the individual.
- Gift Card Scam
- Scammers may resort to calling people, and claiming a debt that was acquired must be repaid with a gift card from a relatively popular store, for example: Walmart, Google Play, Target, iTunes, etc. These callers may ask you to purchase these gift cards online, or go to multiple stores, so sales associates don’t get suspicious of the large amount of gift cards being purchased. They then will ask you for the card number and PIN, to take all the money loaded onto the cards. If you are ever asked to purchase a gift card by someone on the phone or email, immediately hang up or ignore the email. No legitimate organization will EVER ask you to settle a debt through gift cards.
- Mail Fraud
- Letters claiming to be from specific well-known organizations may be sent out, claiming prize money needs to be collected, with a phone number to call. Scammers on the other end of the line, will likely ask for bank information to send this “prize money” to. After you give it to them, they make a withdrawal not a deposit, and your real money is gone.
Tips and Tricks for Avoiding These Scams:
- Don’t Always Trust Caller ID
- Scammers are known for being able to mimic both names and phone numbers that may look familiar to you on Caller ID. Most of the time scammers impersonate organizations you trust, but a way to double-check anyone contacting you is to visit the specific offices and talk to a representative in person.
- If you cannot go in person to the office of the organization the person on the phone is claiming to represent, hang up the phone and make an outbound call to the place using the number you know to be correct from your statement or back of your physical credit card. Do not trust the number listed in Caller ID.
- Resist the Urge to Act Immediately
- Keep in mind that most businesses will allow a person time to decide on any matter, whether it is financial or not. Scammers typically try to force victims to act immediately in giving out important information, so that they don’t have time to process the situation they are in or ask for an outside perspective.
- Monitor your Credit Card and Bank Statements
- If someone has gained access to your credit card number or bank account, purchases and withdrawals within your accounts can be seen either online or in monthly/quarterly statements. Many scammers have begun to make smaller purchases to see if the victim notices, and then will continue to do so until being caught.
- Read all Mail and Emails with a Critical Eye
- It is common for communications from scammers to be filled with typos that don’t initially jump out at you. Make sure to read anything received, and compare letters, emails, or texts to ones that are legitimate to see if there are discrepancies. If something "doesn't feel right" for any reason at all, do not take action on it.
As always, the Horizon Financial team is here to help in any way that we can, if you, or someone you love, has become a recent victim of fraud. This includes updating bank information on the accounts you may have with us, pausing distributions to compromised accounts, offering contact information for support groups that can aid, or just acting as a sounding board for anyone that has gone through this. It is common to be frustrated, embarrassed, or scared in these situations, but as statistics have shown, there is no reason to be, as these fraudulent activities have increased alarmingly fast in the last couple of years. We urge you to keep both us and your loved ones aware of anything that seems out of the ordinary in your life, as that can be beneficial for both your emotional and financial well-being.
 Lazic, Marija, “41 Shocking Scam Statistics to Keep You Safe in 2022”, 17 January, 2022, https://legaljobs.io/blog/scam-statistics/#:~:text=In%20the%20US%2C%20one%20in,you%20are%20via%20online%20fraud.
 “How To Avoid a Scam”, November, 2020, https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-avoid-scam