Being scammed can feel like having your home invaded. Your trust level goes down, and you are determined not to let it happen again. If you've been a victim of a scam, there are valuable lessons that can be learned. Here are a few examples of what you can do to prevent being scammed in the future:
Don’t Trust Everyone
It’s understandable to trust a website, a phone call, or an email from an acquaintance. That said, scammers are good at using things that are familiar to target you. They’ll also use guilt, fear, and aggression to push you to take action.
Whether scammers approach you posing as friends or family, or as an aggressive debt collector that is about to take you to court, if something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. In fact, one thing people learn from being scammed is how important it is to check up on a source. So, how do you check?
If you have an email from a friend begging for money, pick up the phone, and call them. Ask if they sent it. If it is a debt collector, verify they are legitimate by asking for specific information around the supposed debt or requesting they send the information via mail. You can also familiarize yourself with warning signs shared by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.
If you are being asked to part with your money, it’s crucial to check up on the source – especially if the request comes out of the blue.
Scammers Know More About You Than You Think
Scammers won’t necessarily admit to all they know about you, but they will certainly use that knowledge. Your social media accounts, yellow pages listings, and Google search results tell your life story in enormous depth. All of that information points to your weaknesses – those elements of your life that are easy to manipulate, and scammers can and will use them. It’s helpful to keep your social media accounts private. Remove yellow pages listings and information from data collection sites like PeopleFinder and Spokeo. They’re free and far too easy to access. There are also scammers that rely on online obituaries to find vulnerable victims, so keep the obituary free of personal information.
Don’t Believe Everything You See
Scammers frequently create complex online presences that are entirely fraudulent. Facebook photographs and PayPal screenshots may be fake, and a reverse image search is an excellent way to confirm your suspicions. If you feel the need to conduct a search, however, it means your gut is telling you something important. Listen to it.
Everything Can be Faked
A site with millions of visitors must be trustworthy, right? Again, no. It’s easier than you might think to fake screenshots, but even if a website really does attract good numbers, it may still be a scam. There are some impressive looking, yet fraudulent, e-commerce sites on the web that never deliver your purchases. Don’t be convinced by a USPS tracking number. That, too, can be faked.
There are several ways to find out if a website is legitimate. A quick Google search will get you started. However, also check for a padlock symbol in the address bar that signifies they’re using a secure HTTPS connection and look for any red flags (like bad grammar or invasive advertising) as well.
Scammers Love Aggressive Tactics
Politeness does little to help scammers achieve their end goals, so they frequently use aggressive “marketing,” spam, threats, shaming, and fear tactics. If you’re feeling pressured to pay or provide information, you should likely resist.
Like poker players, scammers exploit your personal weaknesses while keeping their cards tightly hidden. They count on your niceness and trust.
Understanding Scammers Makes It Easier to Avoid Being Scammed
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from being scammed. The best defense is knowing the tactics scammers use. You know the companies you use most often, who your friends and family are, and the debts you owe. If something feels off, always do your research and go with your gut.