How to Identify Scams and Protect Yourself Against Them

Email scams often come in the form of correspondence that is unexpected and/or includes an urgent deadline, the promise of financial gain or the threat of a fine or incarceration. Scammers may pretend to be a trusted entity such as your financial institution, law enforcement, a vendor like Amazon or government agencies including the IRS or Medicare. And they are getting quite good, sometimes looking and seeming very real. 

They might claim that they need your personal information to complete a necessary transaction; or they may ask you for a one-time payment to give you a rebate and ask you for payment in the form of a gift card. Don’t fall for it. Anyone you deal with already has your information and no one legitimate will ever ask you for payment with a gift card. Also never give anyone – especially anyone you do not know – personal data such as a password, social security number or credit card information.

Scammers may even use artificial intelligence to steal your money or your personal information. For example, one tiny soundbite can be used to create an entire voice message that sounds like it is coming from a friend or family member. Some could even use your contacts to scam your friends, family or business associates. Yikes!

Don’t let scammers scare you with a false sense of urgency or prey on your emotions. In any of the instances mentioned above, simply call them back – not to a number they provided, but the number you have for that person or entity. Also keep in mind that an officer of the law would come to your home if they had a warrant and if the IRS wanted to reach you, they would send you a letter. Also never allow anyone you are not absolutely sure of to have remote access to your computer and never download documents or open links or attachments from unknown senders. Don’t even respond. Delete!

Also always use strong passwords, secure Wi-Fi connections, anti-virus software, multiple layer authentication and keep up with your software updates since they can provide patches that fix vulnerabilities.