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7 new viral scams to watch for
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Security & privacy

7 new scams to watch out for

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Every day, it seems like there’s a new scam you need to watch out for. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, which is why some folks go on digital detoxes. In other words, they stop using tech devices like smartphones, computers and TVs for a little while.

Do you feel like you need a break from tech? Tap or click here to find out how to do it. When you come back from your break, though, make sure to do some research on new scamming trends.

If you browse without knowing about the latest threats, you’re putting yourself at risk. Like spiders, scammers are constantly spinning new webs to ensnare our data and rip you off. Watch out for these seven scary scams swirling around right now to protect yourself from predators.

1. Unemployment scam: Be careful when you verify

Tons of folks are looking for new jobs. Don’t forget that scammers are looking to trick unsuspecting jobseekers. They’ll send you emails, texts or private messages with a link.

“Click on this link to verify your application,” or “To verify your identity, tap or click here,” the message will say. Don’t click the link — it won’t verify anything. It’s probably a scam that will infect your device with malware.

  • Mode of contact: Fake job postings on ZipRecruiter, Indeed and any other job-related platform, emails
  • What you’ll lose: Unemployment benefits, your identity, potentially your bank account
  • How to avoid: Only apply to jobs you verify are real. Research companies that you’re looking to apply to. Don’t click on social media links that ask you to verify your identity

Oh, and you also have to look out for unemployment insurance fraud. It’s such a big issue the FBI recently warned people about hackers and scammers stealing innocent people’s identities to file for benefits in their name. Tap or click here for a few ways to protect yourself from unemployment fraud.

2. Social media scams: Bad guys love to pretend they’re your bestie

Con artists like to pretend to be your friends. They steal profile pictures from your bestie’s page, set up a fake account and send you a DM asking for money. Send it, and you’re down a few hundred bucks.

Bad guys also pose as legitimate companies. For instance, they might pretend they’re selling bath bombs from Lush. When you try to buy the product, they’ll demand crypto payments.

  • Mode of contact: Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and other popular platforms
  • What you’ll lose: The FTC says fraudsters used social media apps to steal around $770 million from Americans in 2021. Suffice it to say, you can lose a ton of cash!
  • How to avoid: Set up strong privacy settings on all your social media apps, block targeted ads if you can, delete apps you rarely use and research vendors before you buy through an app

Friend impersonation scams are ridiculously successful. If one of your besties ever begs you for money, send them a message on another platform and ask if it’s really them. More often than not, it’s a scammer who stole their information and is trying to break into your account, too.

Tap or click here to avoid a popular phone scam that looks like a convincing text from a friend.

Oh, and watch out for giveaway scams, too

If you won a ton of cash from a giveaway you didn’t even join, it’s probably a trick. But not all fraud campaigns are this obvious. Tap or click here to spot giveaway scams on Facebook, Instagram and Cash App.

3. Fake refund texts: If you didn’t buy anything, stay away

One popular phishing scheme starts with a text message that says you overpaid on a recent transaction. Confirm your email in an embedded link to get your money back, the message says.

You may think someone made a clerical error and take the message in good faith, clicking the link to correct the mistake. Do that, and you’re giving away sensitive personal information.

  • Where they find you: Text messages
  • What you’ll lose: Your identity, account information or even access to your bank account if they lock you out
  • How to avoid: Ignore and delete any messages of this type

Legitimate groups won’t ask for private information through emails, texts or phone calls. Don’t open these messages; delete them ASAP. We also recommend blocking the number or email address that reached out.

4. Emotional ploys: Beware of potential lovers

Social engineering scams are successful because they rely on emotions. And as we all know, it’s pretty easy to get emotional online. A study from Yale University suggests that we tend to get angry online because expressing outrage gets us more likes than other shows of emotion.

All of this is to say that you need to be careful of how social media makes you feel. Many scammers want to make you feel scared, so you’re more likely to click on their malicious links. Other tricksters prefer the long con, romancing you over a few months or years, so you send money to your so-called “long-distance partner.”

If a sexy stranger slips into your DMs and has you feeling lovestruck, take a step back. More likely than not, this isn’t your shot at love — it’s probably a scammer initiating a romance scam that will ultimately drain your bank account.

  • Mode of contact: Dating websites, social media platforms, calls, texts, emails
  • What you’ll lose: The FTC says romance scam victims lose a median loss of $2,500
  • How to avoid: Don’t accept unexpected friend requests or messages, don’t send money to people you haven’t met in real life and don’t click any links or sign up for websites sent through unsolicited messages

Note that we said calls, texts and emails are also modes of contact. While most romance scams are done through dating websites or social media apps like Instagram or Facebook, others send you random texts or emails.

For example, one popular scam you might encounter is the so-called “Mandy scam

You’ll get a text from a random girl who has the wrong number. Then she sends you a selfie, usually of a blonde woman. She’ll claim she met you on a dating website like Tinder, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel or Plenty of Fish.

After laughing over the mistaken identity, the “woman” will ask if you can be texting buddies. Once you build a friendship, “she” will send links to malware-infested adult websites.

One Quora user posted their conversation with a so-called Mandy scammer:

If you get a message like this, block and delete the number. Tap or click here for six ways to block robotexts and spam messages on your phone.

5. Invest carefully: Crypto scams are all the rage

Nothing gets a scammer’s ears to perk up faster than the word “crypto.” (Okay, maybe the word “money” or “payment” gets an equally excited reaction.) They famously demand crypto payments because they’re hard to track.

Scammers also love crypto because so few people understand how it works. All people know is that investing in crypto can make them a ton of money. Everyone’s eager to pour cash into the next newest crypto coin, thinking they’ll make a ton of money. But if you invest indiscriminately, you may be pouring money directly into a criminal’s pockets.

  • Mode of contact: Cryptocurrency exchanges like OpenSea, Twitter accounts advertising new NFTs and crypto investments, social media ads and more
  • What you’ll lose: Hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on how much you invest. One crypto project alone reportedly stole $4 million from investors!
  • How to avoid: Research whatever you’re about to invest in until you know it like the back of your hand. Only invest what you’re willing to lose. Educate yourself on cryptocurrency so no one can pull the rug out from under your feet.

Want to gain a solid foundation of crypto knowledge? Kim has you covered. Tap or click here to make Kim’s eBook your guide to buying, selling and spending the safe way.

6. You’re under arrest: Law enforcement phone scams

Remember what we said earlier about how scammers try to manipulate your feelings? One emotion they often go for is fear. That’s because terror turns you into easy prey.

Few things are scarier than earning the ire of law enforcement officials. When a police officer says you’re under arrest, your mind immediately scrambles for a reason — and you can’t stop yourself from imagining worst-case scenarios. It’s easy to shatter under pressure and forget that this is a total scam.

Here’s what you need to know about this nasty new trick:

  • Mode of contact: A phone call from someone saying they’re a policeman with a warrant for your arrest. They demand money to resolve the issue.
  • What you’ll lose: Although PDs are blowing the whistle on these tricks, they don’t have estimates on how much the average victim loses. Since some of these scammers demand payment in gift cards, you can lose as much as $50 or $100 — though we imagine criminals try to extort even more than that.
  • How to avoid: When a so-called police officer demands money over the phone, that’s a red flag it’s a scam. Officers don’t ask for payment over the phone. Don’t transfer any money. Instead, contact law enforcement ASAP.

One scary detail about this scam is that criminals make their calls look like they’re actually coming from the police department. They may say you have warrants with the city and need to pay a fine through a gift card.

Fraudsters use gift cards because they’re easy for people to buy, and they have fewer protections than credit cards. Oh, and it’s a quick and easy way for scammers to make money. Tap or click here for three immediate steps to take if you fall for a scam.

7. Car warranties, student loans and robocalls, oh my!

Student loan scams are widespread, partly because President Biden has pushed the deadline back a few times. Scammers hope you haven’t been following the news. They want to manipulate you with misinformation, so you pay them instead of your loan servicer. Tap or click here to spot scammers that pretend to be money lenders.

Don’t forget to look out for car insurance scams, too. Tap or click here for a deep dive into the many vehicular scams you’ll encounter. This guide has a ton of detailed information that can help you out.

But robocalls can do you a world of damage. Experts say you can lose $500 to a single phone call. Don’t fall for robocalls; protect yourself.

  • Mode of contact: Texts and calls
  • What you’ll lose: Americans lost a total of $30 billion to scam calls in 2021. The average victim lost $502.
  • How to avoid: Research before taking out your wallet and avoid high-pressure tactics that try to make you pay ASAP

If you want to learn more about robocalls, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few easy guides to check out.

Read more

How to stop annoying robocalls and scam calls for good

Robocalls are skyrocketing again – 5 ways to stop them

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