In 2019, our office was working with a client in the process of purchasing property. All information had been confirmed and we were just waiting on the designated wire instructions to complete it. When the wire instructions came in for the escrow company, I noticed a couple of small adjustments to the amount as well as the company itself. After noticing the changes, I immediately contacted the client. Confirming my suspicion, the client informed me that both the amount and the company were incorrect.
Their email had been hacked. Thankfully, we caught it and prevented a terrible incident from taking place.
While this scam was unsuccessful, there are millions of successful scams occurring every year and more than $3.3 billion was lost to fraud in 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Some of the most common scams in the U.S include banking, telephone, charity, business email compromise, lottery sweepstakes scams and more than 25 others.
How can you determine if it may be a scam? FTC’s website lists the following four signs of a scam:
- “Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know.” Scammers may pretend to be from an official organization such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, a utility company, etc. and will use a fake phone number that appears to be legitimate.
- “Scammers say there’s a problem or prize.” The scammer may say that there is an issue that you need to address such as owing money for a bill or to the government, or that something is wrong with your account.
- “Scammers pressure you to act immediately.” They will want you to provide information or payment to them while on the phone so that you do not have time to think about what they have told you. They may also say there will be consequences if you do not handle the problem now, like arrest or a lawsuit.
- “Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.” You may be directed to pay the scammer through a money transfer company or with a gift card.
Even though there are so many types of scams, there are a few steps that you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim:
- Do not provide your personal information. Research the company and contact them through a trusted website.
- Do not act immediately. Take the time to think.
- Do not pay any fees with the promise of something in return
- Do not pay with cash to charities. Pay with a credit card or check.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Talk with someone you know about it. Your friend or family may realize something isn’t right.
- Do not answer “Yes” if a caller begins the call with “Can you hear me?” or asks “May I speak with [your name]?”
Always be sure to remain alert when contacted to provide personal information, payment, or to take immediate action whether it is in email, over the phone, or in person.
If you believe that you are a victim of a scam, you may report it through one of the links below:
By: Meghan Henderson