19 Phone and Email Scams That Can Ruin Your Savings

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19 Phone and Email Scams That Can Ruin Your Savings

With the number of consumers and businesses that are targeted by scammers on the rise, falling for such insidious traps has become a national problem. Most people think they can spot shady individuals from miles off, and some claim that they’d never fall victim to any internet or phone shams, but the statistics speak volumes.

There seems to be a myth going around too, one that claims seniors are far more likely to fall for these traps. Perhaps this is the reason why 43% of people ages 20 to 29 have reported being victims of such fraud in 2018?

The bottom line is that nobody’s safe from them. The Federal Trade Commission, also known as the TFC, reported that 1.4 million frauds were signaled in 2018, with a total amount of $1.5 billion was lost throughout the United States- and these are just known reports. Millions of people might have been duped without alerting the authorities.

In order to keep your money safe, we’ve compiled a list of scams you should be on the lookout for. Recognizing that something shady is at play is the first step of steering clear of these scammers, so take note and the next time any of these things happen to you, step away.

You’re pressured to ‘act now’ regarding a deal

When you get a phone call or an email regarding an ‘amazing deal’, think twice before you dive in headfirst. The ‘act now’ scam has been around for some time now and it’s quite prevalent because as a society and as consumers, we’re buying things faster than we ever had before.

This is why, at first glance, this might seem like just another deal. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also known as the CFPB, warns us that this is a classic warning sign instead. Scammers are also less likely to give you detailed information or they might flat out refuse to answer questions on the basis of ‘the clock is ticking’.

An honest business wouldn’t pressure you into buying anything like that. The best thing you can do it decline their offer and just hang up. If the deal was something you may have been interested in any way, do your own research online and see what a few searches bring back.

You’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes you never entered

Scammers have no qualms impersonating U.S. government officials. They might call to inform you you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes even if you’ve never entered any such competitions.

If you’re wondering what’s the harm, here’s the catch: they’ll ask you to pay taxes upfront in order for them to send you your prize. While you are expected to pay taxes on winnings, you should know that the CFPB will never call to inform you about winning anything. If you have entered a competition, it’ll be your responsibility to check your status.

Victims will pay the supposed taxes and then they’ll never hear back from the scammers. Sadly, this elaborate scam was one of the top reported threats of 2018 according to a report by the FTC, so be on the lookout!

You’re told to send money by mail for a reward

Similarly, fraudsters will ask for personal information when they claim you’ve won a big-ticket item. This seems less harmful than paying any taxes or sending them any money upfront, but it could be even more damaging.

Rule of thumb: don’t ever give away your social security or credit card numbers. No institution is ever going to contact you and ask for them. So, no matter how much you want the prize they claim is waiting for you, don’t fall for this trap. The moment anyone asks just hang up and go on your merry way.

You owe an unknown debt

Final notice with pen.
Photo bye photastic – Shutterstock.com

Because so many people are scared of debt collectors and because false information about them is passed around regularly, this scam seems to have gained a lot of traction and momentum. If someone claiming to be a debt collector calls to inform you about a debt you owe, don’t immediately believe what they have to say. Some might even call to inform you of debts you’ve already paid off, or debts you didn’t have a clue you’ve accumulated.

The first thing you should do is ask for a license number and a validation notice in order to prove their claims. Most scammers will threaten legal action or criminal charges in order to scare you. That’s when you’ll know you’re actually dealing with someone that’s trying to steal your money.

Unsure of how debt collectors actually work? Read our article about 5 things they can and 5 things they can’t do! It should help prepare you in case you ever get a worrisome phone call.

You’re offered debt resettlement

Sadly, those who need the most amount of help seem to fall victim to these kinds of scams. If you’ve accumulated debt and a settlement agency offers to settle, change the terms of your debt of renegotiating, you shouldn’t be immediately trusting.

How can you tell this is a scam? If the caller asks for you to pay an upfront fee, it’s highly suspicious. Most victims note how the scammers used advanced persuasion techniques, some even said that they needed to implement the upfront fee in order to protect their business. This is a common technique, making ‘potential customers’ feel like its the settlement companies that have a lot to lose and that they’re just being cautious.

You’re promised foreclosure relief

If you want to avoid the risk of foreclosure, the best thing you can do is to call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as the HUD. Their counselors will help you find solutions to pay for your home.

So if you get a strange phone call from someone saying they can help if you pay a fee upfront, don’t take them up on it. If you’re having financial issues, the last thing you need is the added stress of falling for this scam.

We get it, forclosure is scary. There are steps you can take to avoid the worst-case scenario but one of them is not trusting a stranger over the phone.

You’re contacted by an unknown relative

Since so many of us want to help family members when they are in need, it’s no small wonder that scammers have started using our goodwill against us.

In this scenario, you might be contacted by someone claiming to be a distant relative, typically a grandchild. It’s believed that with the help of studying your social media they’re able to spin a story the least gullible of us will fall for. The CFPB says that these people will ask you to either wire money or put extra money on a gift card. The reason behind this is that it’ll be a lot harder to get your money back.

No matter how they pull your heartstrings, don’t give in. If you feel compelled to help out, try reaching out to other family members to verify any claims. That should clear the air and next time this person is trying to contact you, you’re better off ignoring them.

You’re told to send money to a government official

Man putting money in suit pocket.
Photo by kryzhov – Shutterstock.com

A rule of thumb is never to trust a ‘government official’ who is calling you to ask for money. Scammers will often impersonate people we trust most in our communities like government employees or sheriffs.

A big reason behind why this scam works is the fact that called IDs might even list a real person’s name. But trust us, nobody needs money that urgently. If you’ve been contacted this way, call the government agency instead and check with them. If you inform scammers of your intentions to contact the named authority, they’re also likely to get defensive, but don’t let them pressure you into sending them anything!

You’re promised help with starting your business

If word around town is that you’re starting a new business, you should prepare yourself to get a couple of unsolicited phone calls… from scammers, no less. They’ll hook you in by saying they’re business coaches that can help you out with information, contacts or ‘opportunities’ you shouldn’t miss out on.

Luckily, the FTC has provided clear guidelines on what you should do and what to expect as a new business owner, we strongly recommend following their advice.

In order to protect your business, you should look into the business opportunity rules in order to get a better idea of any illegal practices you should avoid. If someone contacts you, let them know about the one-page disclosure they should provide, as it’ll outline facts about their proposal. Another important document should outline their money-making claims.

If scammers can’t provide them, simply walk away and stop wasting your time discussing anything with them. Of course, some might even take this to the next level, which is why you should always check the business opportunity rule and make sure everything is in order before agreeing to anything.

You’re called about investing in a new business

On the flip side of things, you could be contacted by someone asking for you to invest in their business! The same rule mentioned earlier will protect you from losing your hard-earned money, so pay close attention when you do your research.

The first thing you should do is contact the State Consumer Protection Offices to check if everything is on the up-and-up. And don’t, under any circumstances, give away any confidential information. Scammers will look for every possible way to get your bank statements or credit card numbers, which you should never disclose, no matter how interesting the business opportunity sounds.

You’re asked to share access to your computer

A lot of people who are not computer savvy can fall for this scam, and it’s something that has become quite prevalent. It typically starts with a phone call, and the shady individuals will say they’re representatives from companies like Microsoft or Apple. They’ll lure you by ‘informing’ you of malicious spyware on your computer, or anything else that might sound scary. Bottom line, they’ll make their victims think that their devices are compromised and that they’re there to help set things straight.

You should know that these companies won’t seek you out, so even if something is wrong with your computer, don’t trust them. They’ll offer to fix your problem right then and there without payment, which is why so many people trust them.

If you’re asked to download and install any programs on your computer, no matter how legit they look, you should refuse. In all likelihood they’ll just install the malicious software they’re claiming to protect you from and proceed to steal your data, files and cause you a great amount of harm. Some will even blackmail you, saying that you won’t be able to gain back access to your own files and folders unless you pay up.

You’re told to pay a fee before being offered a new job

Business men offering new job.
Photo by fizkes – Shutterstock.com

If legitimate businesses can post job advertisements online, so can scammers. The difference lies in the fact that the latter will have you pay for certification, training materials and other expenses before you’ve even got the job. The FTC is well aware of this trick and they also would like to remind job hunters not to give out credit card information to potential employers.

These scams can be really elaborate too, just to make you drop your defences. It’s very likely that the people calling you will make their offer sound like the perfect fit for you. If it’s just too good to be true and you’re expected to open your wallet before even signing a contract, run for the hills.

You’re offered credit repair

Just because your credit score isn’t great doesn’t mean you should trust the next person who offers to help you out. Fraudsters will not only ask you to pay an upfront fee, but if you give them sensitive information they’ll make your situation ten times worse. If you get a phone call or email like this just ignore it.

Unsure of what to do? Check out this article outlining 8 things you can do that will save your credit score

You’re contacted about donating to a charity

These sort of scams seem to gain a lot of traction after national and sometimes global disasters like major floods, earthquakes or fires. While we applaud anyone who would donate their hard-earned money to a cause, we still think you should be cautious!

You should only donate to charities that you trust and know. Before offering any money, you should also research the charity’s name and registered charity number. Online, you’ll find their report and rating. Who knows, if others have fallen for these tricks, a quick search online might even bring you to exposing articles.

Your new romantic interest asks for money

People who find themselves in difficult situations, who are lonely and are in search of romantic and emotional support online are exposed to a huge number of these scams. In 2018 alone, reports from the FTC showed that $143 million were lost through romance scams.

Fraudsters will take the time to really get to know their victims, tugging on your heartstrings before asking you for money to help them out of a whole plethora of situations. They’ll give various reasons, some of the more prevalent ones are doctor’s appointments, debts, education, travel expenses.

There are indeed people out there who need financial support but don’t break the bank for people you’ve never even met in real life!

You’re told your car warranty has expired

Broken down car on the road.
Photo by By Goncharov_Artem – Shutterstock.com

If someone is telling you your car warranty has expired- or is about to expire, there are ways to check the validity of those claims without falling for a scam. Check your owner’s manual first, no matter how many times you’re told to ‘act now’ or ‘act fast’. Nothing is going to happen if you take a few minutes to check for yourself.

The FTC also recommends calling the call dealer who sold you your car. They’ll give any information you ask for, so take note of it. The next time someone calls claiming the same thing simply hang up the phone.

You’re offered an advance fee loan

Think about it. Any bank or legitimate lender will always take your credit score into consideration before offering any loans. That’s how they stay in business. So if someone calls or emails with a loan offer, stating they don’t care about your past, don’t believe them!

They just want to take your money and they’ll do so by asking for a fee before you receive your money. Those who already have monetary issues should be extra careful, as these types of scams can destroy any progress. If you need a loan you should be responsible for enough to do your own research.

You’re asked to pay rent before signing a lease

Be wary of apartment listings online. A common fraud is to get people to sign leases before even seeing the rental. In some cases, they might even ask for a security deposit. Scammers attract victims with beautiful pictures of the property and often say you should hurry up, otherwise, someone else might snatch this great find or they already have interested parties.

If you’re feeling pressured and you feel like something doesn’t add up, you’re better off following your gut. These properties seem to always have great amenities and they’re often surprisingly affordable.

A reverse image search might even prove that the scammers have stolen the pictures from other websites or from trusted listings so if you’re really interested in the place you’ve seen in photos we recommend you try doing this.

You’re selected for a free trial

During a free trial, you’ll be able to test a new product at no cost, so what’s not to love? If you receive a phone call or email like this, you should research the company and their terms and conditions before agreeing to anything.

You never know if the seller could sign you up for various other products, so you should look at your billing statements regularly and diligently. If something doesn’t add up, cancel all payments immediately. In some cases, scammers might actually offer something for ‘free’ in order to gain your trust. That’s why more people than we’d like to admit have fallen victim for these types of trials. Very few things in this world are ‘free’ and the ones that are likely come with a hidden catch, so, always be vigilant.

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2 thoughts on “19 Phone and Email Scams That Can Ruin Your Savings”

  1. About 2 years ago, I had someone call me from “Dell computer” to tell me that they randomly monitored some of their computers and, while checking on my computer, they found that some scammer had accessed my computer and had installed some spyware. I wasn’t sure if they were on the “up and up” so I asked some questions. I asked him what model computer I owned and he told me correctly. I asked him the service tag number and he got that right too. I then told him to tell me what I needed to do and he said that if I would just give him permission, he would take over my machine and check it and remove the spyware for me. I was duly suspicious, but let him go. After a few seconds I saw my mouse pointer start moving on screen. Then, it dawned on me that there was no way that Dell could monitor every computer their company makes, it would run into many millions. I then reached over to my battery backup that I use and pushed the power button off and told him that I would contact Dell for myself with the REAL 1-800 number. Of course, he argued and I just hung up on him. I then called the Dell Customer Service line and told them what had happened. They told me that there was no way they could monitor any computer of theirs and I had done the right thing. Since then, I have gotten several other scam calls with the same line. If I don’t have much to do, I will play along with their scam just to have some fun. If they say they were monitoring my “Dell computer”, I would say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a Dell (I really do), I have an HP.” That will befuddle him some. He would go on and on about “your Dell, not HP” and I’ll insist I don’t have a Dell just smiling from ear to ear. After a few minutes I would say, “You obviously have the wrong number” and hang up. I did this one time and just a few minutes later, a person with the same foreign accent (they always have a foreign accent) and said he was from HP and had been monitoring my HP computer! It was the same person, to be sure. I then turned it around and told him that I didn’t own an HP, but a Dell. He was very frustrated and cursed at me and hung up!!

  2. This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.

    Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

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