Avoid Scams

It seems as if the news is always reporting on some new scam that criminals are using to steal your money.   It’s no longer just phone calls from foreign royalty who for some reason needs money from you.  Nowadays there also email, text, and even fake QR code scams.  Technology is a useful tool to help in your daily life, but it can also be a useful tool to steal from you.


And, this time of year you have to be extra careful as scammers will attempt to steal your tax refunds.  It’s hard enough getting money back from Uncle Sam, you don’t want someone else getting that money.


One thing all “phishing” scams have in common is that scammers send you legitimate looking emails/texts and you click the link and supply the information without looking closely enough. They’ve have even started using fake QR codes. If you’re unaware, with QR codes you use your phone’s camera to scan the code, it then pops up a website URL and you can click that link.  They became more prevalent during the pandemic when restaurants would use them instead of handing out menus.  


Most common phishing scams


Invoice and Payment/delivery scam:  Attackers will send an email appearing to be from a known common company (eg. Target) stating you have an unpaid invoice, or your account has an expired credit card on file and needs to be updated so a delivery can be made.  


Downloads:  The attacker sends an email with document for you to open or download, along with instructions to sign into one of your existing accounts (such as gmail).  Now the scammer has access to your sign-in credentials and can use that to get additional personal information.


Sextortion emails:  There are two main types, one where the attacker sends an email stating they’ve accessed your computer camera and have compromising photos/videos of you. Many times these are phishing scams and they don’t actually have any photos.  They send mass emails in the hopes of a few people being scared enough to pay.


Or, they pose as someone getting to know you and have them send you compromising photos.  In both cases they demand money, or bitcoin, or they will release those photos to your contact list.Sadly, there was recently a case of a young man who committed suicide after falling for this scam.  https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/20/us/ryan-last-suicide-sextortion-california/index.html


Ransomware:  Attackers will gain access to your computer, either through a fraudulent link or download, and then demand money to return control to you.  


Tech Support Scams:  Scammers will call you on the phone stating there is a software update that must be installed on your computer.  They will tell you what website to go to and it will indicate your system is out of date and you are in danger of major problems. They can also send an email with a link that locks your browser and provides a number for tech support that will fix the problem.


Once you are convinced, or their hack has actually locked your computer, they have you give them access to the computer so they can install the update.  Most times you are watching the update happen but in reality they are digging around gaining access to your personal information.  


Tax-Time Scams


Most follow the same techniques as above.  Someone claiming to be from the IRS or a Tax Preparation company will email, text or call you requesting additional information.  


Threats of money owed:  The most common scams are emails or calls stating that you owe money and you must pay it right away.  They use overly threatening language to scare you into giving over your information before you’ve had time to process the call.


Overpayment:  Like above, you get a call stating your refund was too large and you have to return part of your refund.


Underpayment:  You get a call stating your refund was too small, they will ask for your information so they can send you more money.


Deposit notifications:  Scammers will send you a notice that your refund as been deposited and you can download your receipt.  Like the above download scams, this is a way to get malware onto your computer.


How do you know if it’s a scam?


Are you getting an official looking email, from the government or a trusted company, asking you to update payment or personal information?


YES, it’s a scam.


Is the government asking you to pay money in the form of wire transfer or gift cards?


YES, it’s a scam.


Best ways to avoid being scammed


Don’t trust an unsolicited link.  If you get a text or email from Target, for example, instead of blindly clicking on the link they send you, go to Target’s website and log into your account directly.   


With QR code links always look at the link it’s providing you before you click on it.  If you’re in a restaurant trying to access their menu you would assume the link to be their name.  


If you receive a sale flyer in the mail with a QR code, instead of simply scanning it, go to the company’s  website directly to look for the sale.


Never send compromising photos to someone you don’t know.  Personally, I would avoid them altogether since you never know when your phone could get hacked.


And, sometimes it may appear paranoid, but covering your computer camera when you aren’t using it isn’t a bad idea.  


It’s a sad state when the best advice is to trust noone.  But, when it comes to protecting your personal information and money, trust noone.



With the above tips, staying aware, and doing plenty of due diligence, hopefully you can keep your finances safe and your bank accounts healthy.