Whether you work online or deal exclusively with paper documents, you’ve probably come across a scam or two during the workday. They’re unwelcome interruptions, and if you fall for one, it can complicate life for months to come. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common scams that have been popping up in 2020, and what you can do to keep yourself and your information safe.
Unknown Text Messages with a Link
It’s a normal afternoon. You’re working away when your phone makes the familiar text-alert sound. You pick up your device, only to see a number you don’t recognize, along with a message promising a loan or a payment that you’re eligible for. Receiving such a message isn’t uncommon – scammers are frequently using text messages to try and get marks to give up information, and may even go so far as to pose as a contact tracer from a health organization.
If you receive a text message from an unknown number, asking you to click on a link or respond with personal information, delete it immediately. Clicking links can cause you to unknowingly download malware, which can then compromise the safety of your device and any information stored on it.
“I’m from the Government.”
This scam has been around for years, but in light of recent events, incidents have risen dramatically. The setup is simple: you’re minding your own business when you receive a message – either through the phone or in an email – that is supposedly from a government organization. The message will likely either inform you that you have money or financial assistance you could be claiming or, taking the complete opposite stance, will try to bully you into paying a fee of some kind.
The US Government will never call or text you to solicit funds, nor will they do so to try and help you get a specific payment more quickly. Never provide any kind of payment or personal information in response to these solicitations – as with most scams, your best bet is to delete and report them.
Colleges may not currently be in session, but the school of scamming is humming with activity. College and university students are receiving emails claiming to be from their school’s financial services department, asking them to log in through a specific link in order to receive a free grant or loan. As you’ve probably already guessed, this is nothing more than a clever attempt to gain the student’s personal information.
If you receive one of these emails and you’re confused about its legitimacy, your best bet is to contact your college directly (look up the number online, instead of using the one included in the email) and ask. Unless you get a positive confirmation, don’t click any links, and delete the email.
Stuck in a Circle
Pyramid schemes have been around for years, but at a time when many people are trying to conserve as much money as they can, this one is particularly cruel. It arrives in the form of an email or message on social media, inviting you to join in something called the “Blessing Circle” or the “Circle Game.” The rules of the game are telling: you have to send money to the person in the center of the “game board” in exchange to get your own name on one of the outer spots. The number of spots expands as you get more people to join the “game,” until, supposedly, your name lands in the middle of the board and you get to collect money from new players.
It’s tempting to join in – after all, you pay a little forward, and get a lot back, right? – but remember the cardinal rule of avoiding scams: never send money unsolicited. Pass on the “game,” and if a family member has already paid their “entry fee,” make sure to let them know it’s a scam and help them submit a report.
Where’s My Facemask?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is in high demand among private households and community hospitals, and scammers are well aware of this fact. They offer in-demand items, like facemasks and gloves, at an amazing price, and then once they have your credit card information, they disappear.
When buying anything online, make sure you first verify the seller’s legitimacy. Is there a clear returns policy? Has anyone else bought from this seller? If you decide to buy, always buy using a credit card – if the purchase goes sour, your credit card company will be able to help.
Blackmailing for Bitcoin
Data breaches are a frequent problem, and unfortunately, if a large company is caught in the center of one, there’s a good chance that the information of its customers is scattered across the web. Scammers get ahold of this information and decide to try and score some free money, in the form of Bitcoin.
The scam goes as follows: you receive an email that says through some cleverly installed malware, they have video evidence of you visiting unsavory websites. But not to worry – if you pay a ransom price in Bitcoin, your relatives and coworkers will never know. If you receive one of these emails, don’t panic. They’re bluffing. They might include some of the stolen data to “verify” their claim, but again, don’t worry. If they show you an old password, just go to your account and change it to something secure and hard to guess.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams
Staying safe online is a constant battle. There are new scams every day, and preventing your information from being acquired requires caution in every interaction, both online and offline.
When you’re using the internet, make sure that your connection is secure, and avoid accessing any personal accounts or entering private information on public Wi-Fi. Update your passwords a minimum of once every six months, and make sure that they’re hard to guess.
If you’re dealing with offline information, like invoices, pay stubs, and even junk mail, make sure that you’re getting rid of any kind of personally identifiable information (PII) before you send them to the trash. PII means names, addresses, phone numbers, and even signatures.
A good paper shredding service will be able to drive to your door and shred your documents on-site, so save any paper items with PII and keep them in a secure place until you’re able to arrange for a shredding appointment. Remember, once your documents go in the trash, you lose control of who has access to them. A document shredding service makes certain that your items are processed into tiny pieces, which are then taken for recycling as an extra measure of security.
For more information on paper shredding services in West Virginia and Ohio, give us a call at (304) 488-8627. You can also contact us online to request a free quote.