Skip to Main Content
News and Resources

Signs of a Scam

Cybersecurity, Fraud

Caution symbolIn another installment of security tips from our Security Manager, Clay Perry, he shares some things to look out for that may indicate a scam.

These days all types of scams are on the rise. The digital age has exposed us to a wide variety of scams that ordinary people are being affected by globally. It’s a common misconception that only foolish people fall for scams. In fact, there are a number of highly educated and intelligent people that fall just as easily into the traps of some of the cleverer scam artists. Some scams are well-known and easily avoided, but others are much more convincing scams, put together by researching and selecting specific targets. Luckily, there are a number of common elements in most scams that can help you identify if it’s legitimate or not. Below are 9 warning signs of a scam.

  1. Being offered money you weren’t expecting:
    As a general rule it is your responsibility to find assets you are entitled to, not the other way around. Whether it’s an inheritance from a relative you have never known, receiving a grant you have never applied for, or winning a lottery you have never entered. If someone is offering you money you weren’t expecting, proceed with extreme caution. Google search the person and company they supposedly work for, call the business directly, or even do a Google search with the word “scam” at the end to see if it has been previously reported as a scam.
  2. Links that ask for personal or private information:
    Legitimate businesses will never contact you and ask for personal or private information. Scammers, however, can set up websites that look just like the legitimate website of the actual business. They will send you an email asking you to “click” on a link and log in to verify information. When you do this, they collect both your login information and any personal information you provided.If you get an e-mail from a bank or any other business you generally do business with asking you to verify information, never click on any links they provide. Instead, either call the business to verify or go directly to their website via your own saved link or a search engine link.
  3. Be wary of spelling and grammatical errors:
    While even the most legitimate and well-established businesses can occasionally let a spelling or grammatical error slip through their rigid inspection, scammers often reside in a foreign country and do not speak English as their primary language. If you get an e-mail that is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, there is almost a 100% chance it is a scam.
  4. Request of Fees:
    One common scam is to request a fee to release a huge sum of money. These fees can be for taxes or a processing fee, but if they genuinely had money to give you, they could just hold the fee back from the total. Never pay fees or make payments to any business or company you haven’t thoroughly investigated and vetted as being legitimate.
  5. Check domains carefully:
    In addition to setting up fake websites, scammers will also set up fake e-mail addresses that seem to be from a legitimate company. The domain is the information after the @ symbol in an e-mail address. If you receive an e-mail from a business that seems in any way odd, the first clue is if the domain is from a free e-mail service such as Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook. While some legitimate businesses might use a free e-mail host, it is rare. You can go to the company website through a search engine and e-mail the individual directly, rather than simply clicking on the reply button.Most legitimate businesses and individuals will also have a social media presence that you can check as well. If you can’t find a clear and distinct trail of information about the person or business, it’s probably a scam. Never click on any links until you have thoroughly verified the sender. Clicking on links in e-mails can put your computer at risk at being infected by a virus or other types of malware.
  6. Suspicious addresses, no address, or P.O. Box:
    Genuine businesses have genuine addresses that have been verified and registered. While some legitimate businesses will have a PO Box as a mailing address due to the high volume of mail they receive, they also have a legitimate street address. If anything seems even a little amiss, it’s worth it to do some additional investigation before responding, clicking on a link, or giving any information.
  7. Requests for remote computer access:
    If anyone calls you claiming to be a technician and requesting remote access to your computer, be very suspicious. The best thing to do is to hang up and look the business phone number up yourself and call them to verify.If you have posted your resume or interest in a job on social media be very careful. Scammers will answer these posts by asking you several questions posing as a legitimate company. They will try to convince you they do represent a legitimate company and hire you. They will ask for your personal account information in order to mail you a check for your services. Scammers will remote deposit a fraudulent check into your account. Once this occurs they will tell you to quickly withdraw the money and send them the majority and tell you to keep a small portion of it. They will tell you what payment method to use when sending them the money. They will typically have you send the money to a foreign country. By the time it is learned the check is fraudulent the money has been withdrawn from the account.
  8. Untraceable methods of payment:
    Legitimate businesses use legitimate methods of payment like banks. Even when they use online services you can check with that service to see if they are a verified sender or not. Scammers prefer untraceable payment methods as mentioned above. Do not send or even receive money from any source you are not 100% sure of.
  9. Urgency:
    Words like “immediately”, “act now”, and “time sensitive” should all be Red Flags. While a genuine business making a genuine offer may only extend the offer for a limited time, it will be more than enough time for you to verify the legitimacy of the business. Scammers want you to act immediately before you have time to check them out or rationally contemplate the likelihood of their outrageous offer being legitimate.Never give into the urge to act swiftly or immediately. Remember, scammers are often master students of psychology and human behavior and know the “buzz words” and “key phrases” to use to get you to act quickly and respond irrationally. The best thing you can do when faced with a “once in a lifetime opportunity” is to take a step back, take a minute to think clearly and rationally and do some careful research before responding.

Hopefully these few signs of a scam will be beneficial to you. Of course there are many other signs to look for but these are the most common.  Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it’s not worth the risk.