Whether by mail, phone, or email, scammers are always thinking up new ways to victimize you and take your hard-earned cash. Not only is there an array of methods that thieves may use to contact you during this time of year, but there are also several different scams they may employ to try and trick you into paying up. Here’s a look at three of the most popular wintertime scams, and the steps you can take to avoid them.
1) Romance Scams
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, romance is in the air—but so too are romance scams. According to the FBI, a romance scam is when a criminal adopts a fake identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer’s goal is to create a relationship as quickly as possible by seeming genuine and caring.
Eventually, they will say they need help with an unexpected bill or fee, or that they have suddenly fallen on hard times, and ask for money. Don’t fall for it; you should never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone. Additionally, be careful about what you share on the internet; scammers can use the information to connect with you and make you a target.
2) Utility Scams
During the cool winter months, you’re likely to be more aware of rising utility costs. But, if someone calls claiming to be from your gas, water, or electric company, you’ll want to take your time and confirm the information they give you.
Scammers will try to intimidate you and create a sense of fear or urgency hoping you’ll hand over money before confirming important details. Your real utility company representatives will not do this, so don’t be intimidated by an email or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.
Instead, hang up and call the utility company yourself using the number on your bill or the company’s website. If they confirm that you do have unpaid bills, pay them as you normally would, not by following the caller’s instructions.
3) Skimming Scams
As you stand in the cold while pumping gas, take a look at the payment terminal in front of you—you could prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Scammers frequently attach skimming devices on top of ATMs, gas pumps, or other point-of-sale (POS) terminals to capture your data or PIN. Whenever possible, pay inside, choose a fuel pump closer to the store or in view of the attendant, or run your debit card as credit so you don’t have to enter your PIN. Pull at the edges of the keypad before entering your PIN to make sure there is nothing attached, and cover it with your hand as you enter your information in case hidden cameras have been installed above the terminal.
Want to Protect Yourself? We Can Help
If you’ve sent money to someone you believe is a scammer, or you’ve noticed unexpected activity on your account, act as quickly as possible. Cancel your affected cards and call your bank if you think your account has been compromised. If a scammer does have your sensitive information, such as your social security number, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to file a report.
We take your financial security very seriously. We offer more tips and tricks on our website to help you keep your information protected from identity theft and scams. You can also contact us at any time to learn more.