Have you ever answered a call or received a message from an unknown number stating that you owe money to a company you don’t do business with or won a prize for a contest that you didn’t enter? Americans answer these messages or calls every day, which leads to identity theft and account takeover, costing millions of dollars in fraud every year. Below are some tips on how to recognize the signs of a scammer and not become the next victim of fraud.

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  • Don’t trust your caller ID. Phone numbers, names and even locations coming through can be spoofed. If you don’t recognize the number or you answer the phone to a robot or someone you are unfamiliar with, just hang up.
  • Call to verify. If you answer a call from an unknown number, and they claim to be from an organization that you are familiar with such as your bank, utility company, TV provider, etc., and they ask for any of your personal information, hang up and call the organization directly at an accredited customer service line before answering anything else.
  • Be cautious of things that don’t add up. If it seems sketchy or too good to be true, it probably is. Never trust a caller who claims you have won a prize through a sweepstakes or contest and requires a “fee” in order for you to collect your winnings. They will either collect the fee and you never hear back from them, or they will keep asking for many other payment fees until they get enough, while you never see your prize.
  • Don’t let a caller pressure you to act immediately.  Scammers may create a sense of urgency to lure victims into immediate action. If the caller is trying to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer, they may just be trying to coerce you into making a mistake without speaking to someone you trust first, such as family members or financial advisors. Take a moment to ask questions or research the company online for reviews and complaints.
  • Never give anyone your online banking credentials. Do not ever trust someone making an offer to log in to your online banking so they can deposit a check into your account electronically. Even if you think you are speaking with a family member or friend, fraudsters can impersonate others to get you to share your personal information with them, and your online banking credentials consist of almost everything they need to access your accounts to commit fraud.

It is important to be aware of fraud attempts and know what steps to take to keep your information safe. Following these tips and staying vigilant can greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of scams.