Protect Yourself: Red Flags to Identify a Scam

Are Scams A Real Threat?

Scamming is an absolutely massive threat to everyone. Most people get a large array of scam calls and emails almost every day. Even if the vast majority of these are stopped, it only takes one scammer who gets you at the wrong time and you could be out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. If you want to protect yourself, you’ll want to learn how to identify a scam.

Who Can Get Scammed?

Anyone can get scammed. You might think you're too smart to get scammed, and you're mistaken if you do. Many scam victims are brilliant people who generally know how to spot a scammer but simply made a mistake. Some victims just had a moment of poor judgment. It should also be remembered that scams can be very innocuous. Sometimes the victim merely panicked or rushed and forgot to double-check something. Keep yourself from being added to the list of statistics or the list of people who avoided reporting. If you want to identify a scam, you must always be vigilant. 

Common Types of Scams

It's not always easy to identify a scam. Although the days of some shady-looking stranger in a trench coat with shifty eyes claiming to be the wallet inspector are almost entirely behind us, scamming is still alive and well. In fact, most of them use modern technology and are innocuous, usually over email or phone calls. Once contact is made, they have multiple ways of trying to scam you. Once you recognize how to spot a scammer, you can get a head start.

One is by giving you an infected link. If you click said link, you'll be taken to a legitimate-looking scam website, where you will be tricked into giving them personal details, login information and password, or financial information. In other scams, the scammer will get you to send them money, usually claiming that it's some fee. Other scammers will try to convince you to divulge personal info they can use to steal your identity. Recognizing common cons can help when trying to identify a scam. Some of the most common scams are below, although this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Fake Company Scams: This is one of the most common types of scams and can catch you off guard if you're unprepared. Scammers often claim to be a commonly used company like Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, or a financial institution like a bank or credit card company. They will often claim something is wrong with your account that needs fixing or that you're eligible for some gift or special deal.
  • Romance Scams: Romance scammers can break your heart just as much as a real romance. The scammer creates a fake profile on a dating site or app and develops a dynamic and some trust with the victim before attempting to scam them.
  • Pretending To Be A Relative or Friend: This scam is very devious, as it exploits the relationships you trust the most. Scammers might call people one by one, hack someone's social media account and message their contacts, or one of many other ways. They will pretend to be a specific friend or family member and try to get you to give them what they want.
  • Government Contact: These types of scams will feature a scammer pretending to be from the government, either coming to arrest you for a crime or offering you a grant. 
  • Lottery Scams: Congrats on finding this type of scam! These scams claim you've won some lottery or contest you never entered.
  • Inheritance: These scammers will claim that a distant relative you never met died and left you a lot of money. They will often make a fake promise of a large inheritance if you give them what they want.
  • International Rulers: This scammer will pretend to be an influential person from another country. They will say they need your help and will send over large amounts of money if you help them.
  • Job Posting Scams: Although many of these can be found in emails, many are posted on legitimate job boards. These will often pitch what looks like an enticing job opportunity. However, their real goal is usually to get free labour, your personal information, or make you a fall guy for their shady business. It should be noted that this also contains pyramid schemes, which are still ruining many people's lives worldwide.

Red Flags That Will Help Identify A Scam

Luckily, there are many different red flags that you can use to identify a scam, and most scams will have multiple red flags. Many of the most common warning signs you can use to spot a scammer are below.

Unprompted Contact

Did this call or email seemingly come out of nowhere? Would it be weird for this person or company to reach out to you in this manner? If something like this doesn't add up, you're likely dealing with a scammer.

Unknown Or Suspicious Origin 

Does the email from Amazon.com come from an email address that ends in @sdlg438lqgl3q.net? Does the call from your bank's local branch come from another country? This is often the first red flag you can catch when trying to identify a scam. If you have answered, hang up. Be aware that many phone scammers can call from fake phone numbers, so if you answer a call and it doesn't seem to be who the caller id indicated, be careful. If this is someone contacting you for actual business, and you don’t answer, they will leave a message. 

If you get contacted by someone claiming to be from such an institution who seems suspicious, there's nothing wrong with cutting contact and then contacting the institution to confirm. If it was a legit call, the worst-case scenario is an awkward moment, which is far less harmful than falling victim to a scam.

Unusual Links or URL

If you want to know how to spot a scammer, always look at the link they sent you. Although not all businesses keep on the beaten road so to say, seeing something that seems like it came out of left field can help when you want to identify a scam. Resetting your Netflix password should take you to Netflix's site, not 32ogjw92.com. These are often red flags when trying to identify a scam.

However, remember that these links will not always have obvious signs. You know how a small l (L) looks like a capital I (i)? Scammers sometimes use little things like that to create something like GoogIe.com or AppIe.com. It's possible you didn't even notice that the "L" was replaced with an 'i'' in both of those. If that doesn't work, they can also create sites like Anazon.com, PayPol.com or other sites that look similar to a well-known one. These are common in emails and texts and are called a phishing scam. You will usually get taken to a legit-looking website, and will likely be asked to put in personal or login information that the scammer will then be able to access.

Threats Or Pressure To Act Immediately

If you feel pressured to act unreasonably fast, that's a huge red flag when you want to identify a scam. While someone who's being honest might push some sense of urgency to make a sale, they will not threaten to call the cops for you wanting to think about a deal. Scammers will almost always pressure you to rob you of the time to think because thinking might cause you to see all the red flags.

Poor Spelling and Grammar

Scammers will often speak or write very poorly. While a reputable company's email can sometimes contain a typo or two, or a company rep might misspeak briefly on the phone, getting an entire message filled with poor spelling and numerous grammatical errors is a huge red flag.

Asking For Personal Information

Personal information is often the end goal of a scam. Sometimes the scammer wants your bank account or credit card details so they can access your funds. Sometimes they want enough information that they can use to commit identity theft. In any case, it's advisable not to give any personal information.

You're Told Not To Tell Anyone

Another red flag you can use to identify a scam is the demand to keep it a secret. This will usually be done under the guise of confidentiality. However, the truth is that the scammer is worried that if you tell someone, that person will know how to spot a scammer, and catch them red handed

Demands Money Upfront

A huge giveaway when trying to identify a scam is someone asking for money upfront with little promise of what they’re delivering. Often in the form of a 'fee' for some service provided or a prize. This can often take the form of less traditional forms that leave little in the way of evidence, such as a direct money transfer or a wire transfer. This is to eliminate as many intermediaries as possible and avoid being seen by people who know how to spot a scammer.

Unusual Payment Methods

In what seems to be a strange move to many, scammers often want to be paid in unusual ways, such as gift cards. This is because there are fewer safeguards in place, and once you give them the information on the gift card, it's as good as you giving them cash. Look for anything like this when you want to know how to spot a scammer. 

Too Good To Be True

The old saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," is useful when you want to identify a scam. There isn’t a low-skilled job that will pay you six figures for 20 hours per week while working from home. You won't win a million dollars if you pay someone you just met a five hundred buck ‘service fee’. Someone you've only met online and exchanged four messages with doesn't love you more than life itself. Before you take advantage of any opportunity that sounds great, think to yourself whether or not it would make any sense for any business to offer this. If not, it's likely a scam. Simply having realistic expectations from the world will help you identify a scam.

Their Story Has Contradictions

When learning how to spot a scammer, look for information that doesn’t add up. Does the amount of money you win constantly change? Is this a European company offering you a prize in $USD? Does the name of the contact person change frequently? These and any other details that contain information that doesn't hold up to scrutiny when viewed through a critical lens should be seen with extreme caution. Pay attention to the details before moving on with any deal someone may have approached you with.

Dodging Personal Questions

Another trick to know when determining how to spot a scam is if they deflect or get mad at you for asking questions. If, when you ask about the specifics of the operation, your contact gets mad at you for asking, you’re likely dealing with a scam. A legitimate company would understand that you want to clarify some things. They'd also be completely open about their location, history, contact details and similar information. Most companies have a Google My Business account that will actively display this information to anyone looking for it. If someone dodges these questions, they likely have something to hide, and is something you can use to identify a scam.

Another form of this is that the information you're being given is super vague and lacks anything concrete. A job posting that talks about 'administrative work' but doesn't mention any specific tasks, a lottery from 'African countries' but no mention of which countries, and a mention of prestigious clients but no names given are examples of this level of vagueness. If you can't find the specifics and/or get an earful for asking, run!

Something Just Feels Off

Do you feel like something is off, but you just can't put your finger on it? There's likely a reason for that. It's possible that you have subconsciously been able to identify a scam, and your gut is trying to tell you that. If you find yourself saying, "I have a bad feeling about this," it's best to back out and look for any of the above signs of how to spot a scammer.

What Do I Do After I Identify A Scam?

After you identify a scam, you must ensure you don't fall for it. If you haven't engaged with the scammer yet, stop to ensure you don't communicate with them. Hang up the phone, or delete the text message or email to ensure you don't accidentally click it later. Never give away sensitive information to a stranger.

You should contact anyone who can help stop the damage if you have engaged. If you gave away your banking information, contact your bank to ensure you get the information changed and for them to look out for any suspicious transactions. If you gave away something like your credit card information, cancel that card and get a new one. If you gave the scammer personal information, contact the proper government officials and get yourself protected. If you gave them login info for any of your accounts, get your passwords changed asap. If you know who scammed you, contact law enforcement. At this point, your priority is to minimize the damage done and learn from the experience so it doesn't happen again.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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