by Alyssa Cho
You’ve just received a new email notification. Open it—mail from the prince/princess/some other high-ranking figure from a so-and-so far away country. Congratulations, you’ve won $50 million dollars! Your social security number and bank account information will be needed so the money can be transferred to your bank account.
Sound familiar? It might seem ludicrous, but people still fall for many types of scams. In 2015, 27 million Americans were victimized by phone scams alone, culminating in a loss of $7.4 billion that year—and the number of victims has continued to rise since. Here are some common scams you should know to avoid so you don’t become a victim, too.
The Double-Edged Question
This very simple scam involves tricking you into giving away your answers to account security questions. One common way of doing this is posting a cute picture on Facebook and captioning it with a seemingly innocent question: “My first car, what was yours?” The question varies, but the idea remains the same—a huge amount of people comment the make and model of their first car using their Facebook name. These questions are often the types of identity verification questions that banks use to verify your credit cards and accounts. This scam may only attack the first layer of security, but stay cautious. After all, the scammer’s journey to a thousand dollars begins with one step.
The One-Ring Scam
If your phone only rings once before disconnecting and you don’t recognize the number, think twice before calling back. Scammers might be tricking you into making a premium international line call, one your future self will regret once the phone bill arrives. If you think you should make the call, check through online directories to see where the phone number is registered. If you’ve already fallen for this scam and suffered the consequences, there is still hope. Try resolving the bill with your phone service provider, and if that fails, consider filing a complaint with either the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission on their official websites.
The Pyramid Scheme
The temptation of making heaps of money in a short amount of time is sometimes too great for people to see beyond the glorious but empty promise of the pyramid scheme. In essence, the pyramid scheme is an illegal investment scam disguised as a legitimate business model. The initial recruiter at the top of the pyramid recruits a few salespeople who pay a predetermined sum for a starter kit of products to sell. Each new person pays an investment to the recruiter, and in order to make a profit, these newly recruited people must recruit others to work under them. The pyramid topples when there are not enough people to recruit to pay off the previous layer of distributors. Remember, pyramid schemes are financial frauds, because no matter how many people join the scheme, 88% of the participants will be on the bottom level—and lose money.
The Quick Change Operation
If you work as a cashier, beware of the quick change operation. This short con involves confusing the cashier into handing over more change than they should. The criminal usually achieves this by paying for small priced items with a large bill and requesting a series of money exchanges rapidly, telling the cashier exactly how much money to give back. To avoid falling victim to this scam, close the cash register directly after completing the transaction for the purchase. If the customer is asking to exchange bills and you’re suspicious of a scam, contact your manager before following through with the request. Don’t be the person who takes a twenty and gives back two fives, a ten, and five ones.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how scams work and how to avoid them. But if you’re still scared you might fall for one, here’s a general piece of advice: The best way to protect yourself against scams is to use your mind. There is no dependable way to “get rich quick,” and some things are absolutely “too good to be true.” If a product, service, or idea is repeatedly pitched as “legit” or “authentic,” it most likely isn’t. Good luck!
image: Flight Park