10 Types of Scams and How to Avoid Them

Aug 3, 2023 4 min read

Technology has improved our lives in so many ways, but it has also opened the door to tech-savvy scammers. You’ve probably heard money scam stories in the news, but do you know what to watch for? We share 10 examples of scams and what you can do to avoid getting tricked. Remember to trust your instincts: If it feels wrong, it likely is.

The 10 Most Common Scams

Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal your money. Learn the scamming methods to watch for and what steps to take to keep yourself, your loved ones and your money safe.

1. Money App Scams

Money apps like Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay and Cash App are convenient ways to send and receive money. However, these apps can also be used by scammers to steal your money. In this scam, a person asks to use your phone to make a call, but then says the person they were calling didn’t pick up and they need to send a text message instead. It may look like the person is texting, but these scammers use the opportunity to access money apps to transfer your money into their accounts. To prevent this common scam, change your money app settings to require multi-factor authentication, like a PIN or thumbprint login, for use.

2. Tech Support Scams

Have you received an unexpected phone call or email from someone claiming to be tech support? This is a popular trick used by scammers to gain access to your computer and ultimately your personal data. Avoid giving scammers access to your computer by deleting the email, and never authorize payment or provide personal details or financial information over the phone.

3. Debt Collection Scams

Most debt collectors will contact you to collect on legitimate debts you owe. But there are scammers who pose as debt collectors to get you to pay for debts you don't owe or ones you’ve already paid. Do not give personal or financial information to the caller until you have confirmed it is a legitimate debt collector. Ask the caller for their name, company, street address, phone number, and if your state licenses debt collectors, a professional license number. You can also refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." 

4. Fake Charity Scams 

A charity scam is when a thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you. These kinds of imposter scams often increase during the holiday season as well as around natural disasters and emergencies, such as storms, wildfires, or earthquakes. Be careful when any charity calls to ask for donations, especially ones that suggest they’re following up on a donation pledge you don’t remember making. Take time to research the charity before donating your hard-earned money, and consider donating instead to a local organization you’ve given to in the past.

5. Robocall Scams

Criminals will often pose as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Medicare to steal your money and personal information. These scammers may ask you to make payments using a prepaid debit card or even threaten arrest. Don’t listen to them! The IRS will mail a statement if taxes are owed and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. You can visit the Federal Trade Commission's website to learn about more about current scams.

6. Health Provider Scam

Beware of scammers pretending to be doctors or hospitals that have treated a friend or family member and are demanding payment. A hospital or doctor’s office is unlikely to call or email a relative for money. Hang up immediately and get in touch with the mentioned friend or family member to alert them.

7. Fake Check Scams

Counterfeit checks are another common scam. If you receive a check in the mail that seems too good to be true, be very careful. These scams may congratulate you on winning a foreign lottery, or they may be checking overpayments. If you’re asked to pay a fee for a prize or send back money after receiving a payment, it could be a scam. 

8. Mail Fraud 

Mail fraud is a scheme to get money or something of value from you by offering a product, service or investment opportunity that does not live up to its claims. Before you hand over any money, check out the company online or with a consumer advocacy group such as the Better Business Bureau, State Attorney General’s Office or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s also a good idea to get a second opinion — discuss any promotion, offer or fundraising appeal with a trusted friend or relative before making a commitment.

9. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common internet scams that can pose serious cybersecurity threats to you or your business, if you own one. Scammers use fake emails and texts to gain access to accounts. These messages may look like they are coming from someone you know or a reputable organization, like the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control (CDC). But if you click on the link or download the attachment, it contains ransomware that can infect your computer and access your personal information. If an email or attachment looks suspicious, delete it without clicking on a link or downloading the attachment.

10. Relationship Scams

If you get a call from someone who sounds like a grandchild or relative asking you to wire or transfer money or send gift cards to help them out of trouble, it could be a scam. It’s probably best to check in with that relative to confirm they are not in actual trouble before sending any money. Romance scams are another common form of relationship scams. If a new love interest starts asking you for access to your finances or to take out a loan, be cautious, especially if it is someone you met online. Don’t share personal information like a bank account, credit card numbers or your Social Security number with a new love connection. Never send money or gift cards to someone you haven’t met in person either. 

Protect Yourself From Scams

The best way to protect yourself is by knowing what to watch for and staying informed. Our Farm Bureau identity theft protection can help protect your identity by using quick detection and rapid response. Contact a Farm Bureau agent to discuss your options. 

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