While New Year’s resolutions are often hard to keep, the one that goes, “I will not fall victim to scammers,” is surely worth trying for. That’s what money transfer company MoneyGram, thinks, and they’re offering some tips for making sure you succeed in 2014.
The company has known its share of scammers, since the fiends often try to use MoneyGram services to secure their ill-gotten loot. With the global economy improving, and many Americans finding themselves a bit more flush with cash than in recent years, you can bet that the scammers will be particularly active this year.
By now, most of you know better than to try to help a Nigerian “Prince” in distress. And perhaps you no longer fall for the “you’ve inherited money from a rich uncle you’ve never met” scam, or the old, “you’ve won a contest that you didn’t even enter” variation. But don’t get too confident: scammers are always thinking of new ways to con you out of your money.
One way the scammers have evolved is in their use of social media as a scamming tool. MoneyGram warns that many recent scams target people who use Instagram. In one variation, victims are offered an “investment opportunity” in which the victim are asked to send $100-$200, which the scammer promises to turn increase tenfold. Of course, what actually happens is the thief takes off with the money.
Also, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of “work from home” job pitches recently. They’re often sent as spam e-mail, or buried within the “comments” sections at the bottom of articles online. Scammers even set up fake business accounts on popular social networking sites, so as to appear legitimate.
While some of these job offers may indeed be genuine, MoneyGram said that many are not, and lead to victims sending money for “starter kits” that either never arrive, or don’t offer anything of real value. Once again, the victim and his/her money are parted – by a scammer.
MoneyGram also warns that thieves often use pictures of family and friends posted on social media sites as a means to gain information about –and access to – their unsuspecting victims. For instance, the firm warns that scammers will use pictures and information about an upcoming trip as a means of conning money out of the traveler’s family and friends.
It works like this: The scammer sees photos and excited posts about an upcoming trip. During the time-period when the traveler is away, the scammer reaches out to the traveler’s family and friends, saying that the traveler is in trouble and needs help. This “fake emergency” often works to raise hundreds of dollars from concerned loved ones.
If there’s a common theme in most of these scams, it is that the victim winds up sending money to a complete stranger. So, the best tip is to never do this. Only send money to people and businesses you know and trust.
Also, you should be very careful about how you share personal information on social media sites. Even seemingly innocuous things, (like vacation photos), can give a scammer the tools he needs to fleece you, or your loved ones, out of cash.
Add to this the growing amount of personal and career details you’ve probably put online for the world to see. For instance, do you have your resume online? Or information about where you went to school? These things can help a scammer to work his game: To seem familiar to you, and earn your trust.
One way to avoid such trouble would be to simply refrain from participating in social media sharing, but where is the fun in that? To keep on sharing, but to do so safely, try to be more cautious.
Take heed of an old Russian proverb: Trust but verify. If someone is reaching out to you using familiar references, (such as old school relationships or knowledge of a friend), be polite but check out the person who is doing the reaching out. It’s a bit inconvenient, but such verification shouldn’t take much time.
Use Google, for instance – and know that the same tools that make online scamming easier for the scammer also make it easier for you to uncover a fraud.
And here’s another old saying that comes into play: If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. If it was really that easy to make $70/hr. working from home you’d be hearing about it from your friends and neighbors, not just some spam emails. If making 10X on a single investment was a “sure thing” why isn’t the scammer keeping this great information to himself, and making piles of money?
Be careful out there, and try to make 2014 a banner year for your finances. Use caution, and you’ll also make it a lousy year for scammers.
Copyright Today’s Credit Unions