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Money | Improve Your Finances


The world is getting more connected day by day, and for some, that means more opportunities to scam you out of your money. Here is just a sample of scams you may encounter and how to handle them. If at any point you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Scammers use online dating apps or social media to build a fake friendship or romance with their victims. After winning the target’s trust, the scam artist will create a story to persuade their target to send them money.

What to do

  • Don’t send anything of value to someone you haven’t met.
  • Cut contact immediately if you’re suspicious.
  • Get input from friends and family.
  • Research their story to see if it’s a typical romance scam narrative.
  • Reverse image search their profile picture.

Confusing about scams
Phishing scams take place through e-mail or text messages. Perpetrators will then use tactics to trick you out of your personal and financial information. Mainly, they’ll encourage you to click a link or download an attachment. These scammers often pretend to be a company you use or know, claiming:

  • Suspicious account activity.
  • Problems with your payment or personal information.
  • Fake invoices.
  • You’re eligible for free stuff or a government refund.

What to do

  • Investigate the e-mail or text for generic greetings, poor grammar, and link invitations.
  • Call or contact the company they’re impersonating.
  • Set your computer and mobile to update software and download extra security automatically.
  • Use multi-factor authentication on your accounts.
  • Make sure to back up your data on an external drive.

The Scammer
IRS scams usually come in the form of e-mails, phone calls, or other electronic contact. Scammers will claim they’re from the IRS or U.S. Department of the Treasury to trick you out of personal and financial information.

What to do

  • Ignore unsolicited e-mails that say they’re from the IRS.
  • Don’t discuss personal or financial information via e-mail.
  • Avoid opening links or attachments in e-mails from suspicious sources.
  • Use the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund?” to check if you’re really getting a refund.

Scammers will send you a check and ask you to deposit it in your bank account. After, they’ll tell you to send a portion of the money elsewhere. Keep in mind, the checks can vary in type.

What to do

  • Ignore mystery shopping positions, personal assistant offers, prizes, etc., and any contact that asks you to send money somewhere else or refund a check balance.
  • Don’t accept a check that exceeds the selling price.
  • Don’t send money in any form to strangers.

Calling about Scam

The scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration, usually through a phone call. They’ll say your SSN is linked to a crime or blocked.

What to do

  • Refuse calls that claim to be the SSA and ask for your Social Security Number.
  • Avoid calls that ask you to pay or threaten you.
  • Don’t pick up the phone just because the caller ID says it’s the SSA.
  • Never give your SSN or any other personal information to a stranger.

Retailers pay companies to evaluate their store’s service. Sometimes that company will send a mystery shopper to collect information; they buy a product or service and then report how the experience went. However, dishonest advertisers will promote these jobs with fake registering websites that require fees to get started. They’ll often lie about opportunities connected to the job and offer worthless material in exchange for the fees.

What to do

  • Avoid mystery shopper positions that ask you to wire money.
  • Research the job so you know what a real position asks you to do.
  • Search for reviews online.
  • Avoid newspaper and e-mail advertisements.
  • Don’t apply for ones that guarantee the job or ask for fees.

Inheritance scams can have multiple scammers, some who even pretend to be financial professionals or a lawyer. They’ll inform their target that they have an unclaimed inheritance waiting for them. First, though, they’ll need the victim to pay a few fees to collect it—effectively scamming them out of their money.

What to do

  • Be cautious about fees. Legitimate law firms don’t demand fees in exchange for information on your share of an estate.
  • Scammers can be a neighbor or friend. Be wary if someone around you asks for help paying fees to access an inheritance.
  • Double-check where you are sending money or financial information.
  • Get others’ input.