No matter how many times people are told to never share their personal information, scammers still manage to find new ways to elicit prepaid, debit, and credit card numbers from unsuspecting consumers. It is also easy to assume that you would never fall for one of these scams, but you might be surprised, especially when you are dealing with sophisticated criminals who appeal to your sense of politeness and other social norms. Your best defense is to be aware of what scams are out there and know how to avoid them.
- The Security scam
You receive an automated call from your bank letting you know that your card has been frozen because of suspicious activity. Next, you are prompted to press "2" to talk to a representative who will ask for your account number and other personal information. At first, you may feel a sense of relief knowing that your bank is looking out for your money, but beware.
If your card has legitimately been frozen, then the bank will usually call you and ask you to contact the bank. This ensures that you are actually talking to your bank. They will never call you and conduct the reactivation within the same phone call. If you are unsure if the caller is legitimate, hang up, and call your bank directly to ask about your account.
- The late utility bill
Your utility company calls to tell you that your service will be shut off if you don't immediately make a payment. Of course, you panic and start looking for your card so that you can resolve the situation.
Remember that any utility or cable provider will send several notices before they shut off service. In addition, they won't demand payment over the phone.
- Computer scamware
You get a courtesy call from someone posing as a representative from a recognizable and trustworthy technology company. Scammers will claim to be calling from a computer company and ask you about your computer's performance. You might mention that it hasn't been running quite as fast as usual and they offer to take a look and clear out any viruses that may be causing problems. They ask to have remote access to your computer and in a matter of seconds, you have effectively handed over the keys. The scammer will have access to all your personal information.
A good rule of thumb is to never give information over the phone that you wouldn't hand over in person. In addition, a lot of effective scams begin with a phone call. If you haven't initiated the call, then you should be suspicious about who is on the other end.
- The government grant scam
It is your lucky day! It turns out that you have overpaid on your taxes or some other mistake has been identified and you are owed a nice chunk of money. Instead of receiving a check in the mail, you can have the amount directly loaded to your prepaid card account or bank account.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Also, keep in mind that companies and government agencies conduct business through the mail. You will never receive a phone call from the government.
As scammers become more sophisticated and continue to prey on people, consumers have to be diligent about protecting themselves. A healthy dose of skepticism can help you avoid scams.