It seems like everyone is trying to make a quick buck these days. While many of us try to bring home the honest bacon, there are those who make their own, dishonest bacon by scamming innocent people. Today, we’re going to discuss some of the most common scams and how you can keep your business and personal finances safe.
Someday, Your Prince Will Come
But, not via email.
Who hasn’t had that fantasy where a rich member of a royal family picks up our product and falls in love? While we all have big dreams of being discovered by someone like that, don’t count on it happening in a grammatical error laden email.
If someone contacts you claiming to be the Prince of Transnitria, and their email address reads something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”, it’s a scam. It’s safe to say that if any person contacts you, claiming to be a member of a royal family, a celebrity, or some other powerful figure and asks to borrow money, it’s not legit. No matter how much money they promise you as a reward, simply delete the email.
Another common email scam is the “you won the lottery!” trick. These emails will claim that you have won some sort of lottery or prize that you know you didn’t enter to win. As tempting as it may be to follow the rabbit hole and see if you really did win $4 million, do a little research first by asking a couple of simple questions.
- Did I enter this contest? Typically, you need to consciously enter to win a lottery or contest by putting your name into a drawing, or by being a subscriber of a site. If this is not the case, it is likely not legitimate.
- Are they asking for personal information? If the sender is asking you for identifying information like your date of birth, social security number, etc., do not give this information to them-especially if you not recall entering the contest. Even simple requests for your address and full name should be fully investigated and/or ignored-this sort of information can still be used to steal your identity.
- Is the contest legitimate? A very simple way to know if you’re the target of a scam is to just Google the contest name. The beautiful thing about the internet is, it gives people a platform on which to publicly call out scams and cons. Before you reply to an email that you suspect, do a search for the name of the company that it came from. If it is legitimate, you’ll find corroborating evidence online.
It’s not completely unheard of for someone to send an email sans subject-but if someone you don’t know sends you an email with a blank subject and just a file to open, don’t do it. Malware is often transferred to your computer via attachments; opening an unknown attachment invites that malware to infect your computer. If someone you know sends you an attachment that you aren’t expecting, don’t open that right away either. Send a quick text or email to the sender to verify that they sent you the attachment-more often then not, their email has been hacked and the person in control of the account will send malware to people in your friend’s contact list.
You’re Under Arrest
No one wants to hear that there is a warrant out for their arrest. So, when someone claiming to be an IRS agent either calls, texts, or emails you and says there is a warrant for your arrest due to tax fraud, it isn’t hard to understand why you might be a little on edge!
No matter which way these scam artists try to contact you, understand that the IRS will not contact you using these methods if you truly are the subject of an investigation. They will send you written correspondence via post before attempting to contact you using other methods.
These fraudulent IRS scams have become so commonplace over the past few years, that the IRS has had to publicly address them. You can see the official statement from the IRS at https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/irs-repeats-warning-about-phone-scams.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Honestly, the very first line of defense you have will be your intuition. If it looks too good to be true, the odds are good that it is indeed a scam. Also:
Don’t give out your personal information via email to someone you don’t know, or who has sent you an unsolicited email. If you have never spoken to the sender, have never heard of their company or have reason to believe the email is a scam, do not reply and certainly do not send any identifying information to the sender.
Never open unsolicited or unknown attachments. Don’t let malware get a hold on your computer; don’t open files from unknown sources.
Check your spam mailbox for filtered items, but let it do its job. Your spam filter is a powerful thing-sometimes too powerful, if it filters out emails that you want! Some email programs allow you to disable the spam filter, but we caution against this. Spam filters help to weed out things that can be harmful to your computer, which ultimately makes them harmful to you.
As we rely more on technology to help us with payments, banking, and managing our businesses, we take a risk that our information will be hacked-a slight risk, if you take precautions in the handling and sharing of your information! Keep an eye out for malicious emails, don’t fall for the newest tricks in the book, and you and your business will stay safe and secure.
Speaking of security, there are many ways that you can protect your business that take only a few minutes to set up. Check out our article here on Cut to the Trace about protecting your business: http://www.cuttothetrace.com/?s=security