In times of increased uncertainty, people can become more susceptible to fraudsters who make a living through distributing sophisticated scams.
Some scams are engineered to appear as if they have been distributed by legitimate organisations, others focus on personal matters such as the safety of family members. In order to protect ourselves and those we love, it’s important to be aware of the most common scams people fall for.
1. Lottery scam
You get an unsolicited phone call or email saying you’ve won a large prize. All you need to do is send money to pay for delivery, taxes or some ancillary fee. You send the money, but the fictional prize never arrives.
2. Family member scam
Your relative calls to confess her troubles. Or so you think. It’s not uncommon for someone posing as your relative to call and, preying on your compassion, claim to be in a crisis situation and needing money urgently. They may also beg you not to call someone else in the family (which would give the scam away).
3. Charity scam
You donate to one charity and end up being on every charity list. That’s because they sell your name, phone number and email to other non-profit and commercial organisations. These could include companies with similar names to charities you support – but they exist solely to scam those who donate.
4. Computer scam
Someone calls pretending to be from a major company, such as Microsoft, and says they can see that your computer has a virus. They offer to help you get rid of it by asking you to log into a website that lets them control your computer – then they steal your personal information.
5. Timeshare scam
If you own a timeshare, you may get a call from someone claiming they’re authorised to sell it for you, for a fee. After paying, however, you never hear from them again.
6. Homeowner scam
A man comes to your door and offers to clean your gutters or trim your trees, which sounds like a good idea. Until he asks for prepayment and never completes the job.
7. Medical scam
You get an unsolicited call about a discounted price for some kind of medical equipment (i.e., heart monitor, wheelchair or bathtub bench). He asks for a deposit and your personal information to send the equipment, which never arrives.
8. Home repossession scam
You’re approached by a “professional” who claims your home is under threat of repossession and offers to pay off your mortgage if you sign over the deed to the property. With your deed, the fraudster can then refinance the mortgage for the full value of your home and take the money. Keep in mind, even if you sign over a deed to someone, you are still liable for your mortgage obligations.
9. Care providers and sweetheart scam
These predators claim to care deeply for you or your well-being, but after winning your trust, they gain access to your accounts to steal money or identity information.
10. Estate agent scam
Before purchasing a new property, a scammer intercepts an email from your estate agent. You’re then sent fraudulent payment instructions to complete the transaction. Red flags include last-minute changes to instructions, a change in tone or word choice from prior emails, a new sender address and multiple payment requests.
These scams are common and widespread. But speaking with trusted loved ones or your financial professional before making decisions can help you avoid these traps.
Additionally, keep in mind these tips for staying safe:
- Don’t pay for things you don’t remember ordering
- Don’t give your personal information to unknown third parties
- Work with financial institutions that use fraud protection to safeguard your credit card and banking information
- Don’t click links in the body of suspicious emails, especially if they claim to come from your bank, credit card company or estate agents. Instead, log in to the company’s official website or call them directly to verify
- Don’t let strangers into your house. Instead, ask for a business card and say your spouse or lawyer will be in touch
- Be wary of care providers, especially if you notice signs of substance abuse or other red flags
- Limit the purchases and donations you make by cheque, which may list your home address or other key data