Consumers are getting smarter about fraud, but unfortunately thieves are too. According to a recent study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. Additionally, In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.
Criminals are defrauding many victims by combining new technology with old tricks to gain access to their money and personal information. Being informed is the first step to keeping your money and personal information safe.
Check out these recent scams reported by the Better Business Bureau that are currently plaguing hardworking people everywhere.
1. The “You’ve Reached Your Storage Limit” Phishing Scam
This scam looks like just another email message from your company’s IT department. It’s so mundane or routine, these messages are easy to click on without thinking. However, a new scam should have you checking your email twice.
The reported version of this scam reads: “[name]@[company.com] update required” and appears to come from firstname.lastname@example.org. According to the message, your email has reached the storage limit, and “you will be blocked from sending and receiving messages.” The message instructs you to click a link to validate your account and add storage. In a clever move, the scammers even made the link look like your email address. But in the version Better Business Bureau received, the link really points to a website with an overseas domain name.
Clicking the link takes you to a login form that asks you to enter your email address and password. But don’t believe it or fill it out! The form is a fraud and a phishing scam. It’s really a way to steal your email password, which opens you up to identify theft.
No matter what format it comes in, the Better Business Bureau recommends these tips to identify a phishing scam:
• Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.
• Don't believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn't mean it is. Scammers can fake anything from a company logo to the "Sent" email address.
• Check your company's IT department or internet service provider. If something sounds suspicious, confirm it first. Contact them directly from a number you know is accurate. DON'T click on any links in the message you suspect is a scam.
• Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don't contain your name, last digits of your account number, or other personalizing information. Pay attention to the ways in which your IT department normally addresses concerns and be cautious of any new method.
•Use unique passwords: Use different passwords for each account you create. This is the simple way to reduce your risk if one password falls into the hands of scammers.
2. Beware of Video Game Account Scams
Gaming is a multibillion dollar industry but it isn’t immune to scammers. If you’re a gamer currently stuck on certain level, buying an account from another player may seem like a fast, easy way to move forward in a game. However, not only is this practice forbidden by most game manufacturers, it leaves you vulnerable to scammers.
Scammers will often log into message boards and post they have an account to sell. Once they find a buyer, the transaction seems easy. The victim will pay the seller, and in exchange, the scammer provides the account information.
It all seems legitimate but these transactions often don’t go as planned when the seller/scammer provides incomplete or fake account details. Before the buyer notices, the scammer files a support ticket with the game manufacturer to change the account details. Other times, the scammer sells the account to multiple players and provides them all with the correct account information. However, when multiple users attempt to change the credentials at the same time, the manufacture realizes the account has been compromised and shuts it down.
While this practice is already forbidden among gaming companies, gamers can use these additional practices to keep their keep their online game account secure:
• Don’t share account information with others. Choose a secure password and don’t share your account information with anyone, including friends.
• Don’t pay users to play for you: Ignore offers from users who play for pay, putting in the hours you need to level up. You will need to share your username and password with these players, compromising your account. If your credit card is attached to your account, these users can go on a shopping spree.
• Don't share personal details in games. Other players may ask you about yourself, but sharing personal details such as your full name, address, birthday, etc. can open you up to the risk of identity theft.
• Use unique passwords: Use different passwords for each account you create. If your password falls into the hands of scammers, your other accounts won’t be compromised.
3. The Hazard of Online Cigarette Sales Ploys
As if you didn’t need another reason to quit smoking, new scams have been popping up encouraging consumers to purchase cigarettes from online international sellers.
While the vendor website may look legitimate and includes big brand names with great pricing, consumers can easily spot trouble when they go to check-out, the seller will not accept credit cards and insists on payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
Don’t do it! The seller will take your money and confirm the order shipped - but the cigarettes will never arrive.
This scam is a cautionary tale for many other fraudulent retail operations. To spot an online sales scam, keep an eye out for the following before making a purchase:
• Be wary if the price is significantly lower than on similar sites. If a deal seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
• Avoid all retail websites that insist on a wire transfer or prepaid debit card transaction as a form of payment.
• Check for contact information and social media presence: Look for a real address and telephone number in the site’s contact information. Check out the company’s social media presence to verify their activity and search verifiable websites for consumer reviews.
• Use Whois.com. This website can help you check the domain name to see if it is registered in the country where the business claims to be located.
• Make sure websites are secure and authenticated: Before you purchase an item online. Look for "https" before the web address and online seals that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.