Sophisticated scammers are determined, diligent, and are relentlessly coming up with new ways to gain people’s trust and confidence in order to steal their assets.
In 2019, over 3.2 million fraud reports were submitted to the Federal Trade Commission, and many successful frauds also go unreported. Arm yourself with information to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.
Scammers target everybody. Everyone. They don’t care about age, religion, gender, or political association, unless it’s information they can use. If you think you’re too young, too poor, or too sophisticated to be targeted – think again.
For example, of the FTC fraud reports in 2018 where the age was included:
Roughly 3 percent were under 20
Roughly 28 percent were between the ages of 20 and 40
Roughly 30 percent were between the ages of 40 and 60
Roughly 33 percent were between the ages of 60 and 80
Roughly 6 percent were over 80
New scams are being developed and deployed all the time. Here are three examples of how scammers use events to create a sense of legitimacy, and your defensive move.
The tax filing season gives credibility to IRS impersonators
As the new tax filing deadline approaches, keep in mind – the IRS will not call on the telephone. They do not demand immediate payment, or request payment via a credit or debit card, or threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying. Those are red flags of a scam.
Scammers may use that press release and announcement to “legitimize” themselves as IRS Agents. Real IRS revenue officers will always provide two forms of official credentials, and both include a serial number and photo of the IRS employee, and a taxpayer has a right to see both.
If you don’t owe taxes, or have any reason to believe you do, do not give out any information when called. Instead, contact Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call. Use their *“IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” webpage. You can also call 800-366-4484 to report it.
Online shopping gives credibility to counterfeiters
Amazon has been tremendously successful in promoting confidence in online shopping, and confidence men or women take advantage of that trust.
They set themselves up as sellers for legitimate products, and then sell counterfeits to an unsuspecting public. They create fake product reviews using bots to deceive purchasers into buying their products. Once they have enough negative feedback, they simply disband that profile and use another.
Here are some red flags to spot fake or unreliable reviews:
- A one-day surge in five-star reviews
- Broken grammar
- Reviews from reviewers who post hundreds of reviews in one day
Last Christmas, one of the hard-to-find gifts was the new Apple Airpods, and online sellers capitalized on this with a surge of counterfeit products. These were sophisticated counterfeits, with packaging that looked like the original, and an inferior product inside that looked like the real thing, shrink-wrapped as expected.
Manufacturers of some products have tools for you to register and check them. For Apple, it’s through *their warranty checker. It’s free to check, and the serial number from the counterfeit packaging will either show up as “non-existent” or “already used,” so you would know immediately to report the seller and get a refund.
Your mail and private information gives credibility to identity thieves
With the growth in ordering products online, “porch pirates” thievery has been surging and multiplying each year. However, losing a package is not nearly as dangerous as losing what some consider garbage – junk mail. Junk mail, such as a pre-approved credit card application, may allow a scammer to setup an account in an unwitting person’s name with a different address, incur debts, and then abandon the account.
Beyond junk mail, financial statements and tax documents also have information such as where the account is located, account numbers, name and address, and other information that scammers use to impersonate account holders. Shredding documents with private or personal information is a great step in preventing identity theft, but the US Postal Inspectors are still arresting thousands of thieves each year. Many have taken the option to go entirely digital with their financial statements to eliminate the risk of mail theft.
The scammers have many points of attack, and switching to digital won’t eliminate you as a target, even if it does eliminate the possibility of mail theft.
Scammers send fraudulent emails that are sophisticated, impersonating a notable company’s logo and brand and even using a similar web domain that’s linked to in the email that’s only slightly different, such as adding a –security.com to the end of the web address. The website is also branded, and then records the credentials when the person tries to log in. This is not only an issue faced by the largest companies. A recent study by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Hiding in Plain Sight: A Longitudinal Study of Combosquatting Abuse, found 2.7 million fake attack domains were created over a 6 year period that centered around only 268 popular domains.
The best way to avoid going to a fake website is to initiate the contact yourself by typing in the web address you know is correct or searching for the company instead of clicking links in emails from unfamiliar senders.
What about Arvest Wealth Management Account information?
By accessing the account yourself, you can avoid the danger of responding to an imposter or scammer. The online investment portal available with Arvest Wealth Management also includes multiple security measures to protect your confidential information.
You also have the benefit of having your statements automatically archived and accessible from anywhere, and investment research tools. Arvest Wealth Management client advisors would be pleased to review these and other features associated with our client portal with you. Connect with an Arvest Wealth Management Client Advisor.
This content has been provided by Merrill Anderson and is intended to serve as a general guideline.
© 2020 M.A. Co. All rights reserved.