Every new year brings with it new hope, new plans … and new identity theft scams, as unfortunately some criminals are resolved to make life miserable for the rest of us. The list that follows includes some trending scams that you’ll likely hear more about in 2017, as well as some old “favorites” that we don’t see going away anytime soon.
Just about everyone has a smartphone these days, and fraudsters know it. Look for more scams to come through your smartphone, especially spam text messages that might offer you free gift cards or cheap medications, or claim to be from your bank. Just as with email scams, clicking on text-message scams usually leads you to shady websites that install malware or steal your private information.
And by the way, even texting “stop” to prevent future texts is a bad idea. Instead, delete the messages without replying, and forward the suspicious to “SPAM” (7726) to alert your cell carrier.
Email Phishing Scams
Email phishing scams have been around since … well, just about since email was invented. But in 2017 you’ll see more sophisticated attempts to get you to click on fake emails. Scammers—some of them quite convincing—will pretend to be from the IRS, from your bank, and from retailers you use all the time.
We already saw the increasing sophistication of email phishing scams last year, when fraudsters claiming to be from Amazon sent out thousands of emails telling consumers there was a problem with their order. To remedy the issue, all customers had to do was click on a link to confirm some information—but of course the link led to a fake, but credible, website. Even worse? Once people entered their personal information, they were routed to the real Amazon website, so they had no idea they’d been scammed.
Social Media Scams
Over the holidays, you may have heard about the fake advertisements for Uggs that were spread across Facebook. In 2017, you’ll likely see more scam ads like those on social media, where scammers can reach a lot of people quickly.
What made the Uggs ads especially troubling was that the attackers compromised legitimate Facebook accounts and posted photos promoting the fake goods without the consent of the profile owner.
This year, make a resolution to keep a close eye on your social media feeds to make sure you’re not a victim—and always look for “HTTPS” in the URL of shopping sites before you make a purchase.
For years now, people have been falling for a scam in which fraudsters call and pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The callers use fake names and bogus IRS identification numbers. They even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. And then, after they have won your trust, they demand money for back taxes or say you have a refund due and they just need to confirm some personal details.
The reality is that the IRS rarely calls taxpayers. And they will never call to demand payment by phone, nor threaten to bring in local police if you don’t pay immediately. As with all questionable calls, you can always hang up, look up the correct number for the purported organization, and call them back yourself.
Online Ticket Scams
Popular sporting events and concerts have frequently invited scams. Originally, you would find a scalper standing outside the venue who might charge too high a price or try to convince you that the tickets were for better seats. Then you’d discover the scam once inside. While scalpers still exist, online ticket scams have emerged as a far more insidious problem.
Legitimate online ticket resellers sell good seats at a fair price. But others sell counterfeit tickets or duplicates of legitimate tickets to multiple buyers. Some create phony websites and others use online classifieds, like Craigslist.
If you really, really need tickets to the big show, try to purchase from a large, authorized ticket broker that guarantees the validity of the ticket. Also research the seller’s name, adding words like “fraud” or “scam” to see if there are negative reviews. And never wire cash—credit card is your best bet.
Buyer Beware in 2017!
These ID Theft scams are just the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately. If you use digital devices, in 2017 you will no doubt come across scams. And if you answer your phone or perhaps even your front door, you may find scams there, too.
This is a good time to recognize that you will also encounter many good people and good deeds in 2017. And with a little knowledge and caution, you will be able to enjoy all the wonderful things the world has to offer—without being the victim of any scams.