The internet and electronic communications services offer limitless possibilities to enhance the day-to-day lives of consumers and businesses. However, they also provide would-be scammers with a variety of channels and opportunities to try to catch their targets by surprise. This article presents five tips for minimising the risk of falling victim to such scams, by providing insight into what a scam involves and what red flags to watch out for.
1 – BE INFORMED!
Scammers may target you on various communication channels, such as email, SMS or phone calls, as well as on instant messengers such as WhatsApp. On each of these channels, scammers use various techniques to cheat their targets. Scammers may urge you to share sensitive personal information, to make specific payments or to install apps on your device.
For instance, you may receive calls that seem to be from the number of a friend or family member, or an SMS that appears to be from a legitimate company. You may also receive emails from sender addresses which may look to be familiar, at first. To avoid becoming a victim to such scam attempts, it is important to be informed of these so-called ‘spoofing’ techniques which allow scammers to mask their true identity. Keep in mind that not everything is what it seems, so do not trust blindly.
2 – BE VIGILANT!
Scams often hit when you least expect them, so be careful and alert at all times, particularly when dealing with sensitive matters. Scammers are known to use ‘phishing techniques’ where they create fake ‘replicas’ of legitimate websites to trick users into fraudulent communications or transactions. Similarly, scammers may set up fake social media pages posing as established brands, which may mislead users to start communicating with the scammers under false expectations.
When receiving suspicious communications, question the caller, or inspect the source of the message received. Unfamiliar phone numbers, links or SMS sender identities could be indicative of a scam. As a general rule, never disclose passwords or PINs, and be cautious around requests to share sensitive information, such as bank account details and credit card information. Most reputable businesses will never ask you for such information, be it in a call, email, SMS or any other channel.
3 – BE PRACTICAL!
If you are being put under unnecessary pressure or fear, this could signal another red flag. Your best defence, here, is to stay calm and think twice. If an offer seems too good to be true, it most likely is. In such situations, hold off on making decisions. Instead, stay composed, and ask for more information. Talk to a friend or colleague about the communication you received. If a suspicious caller claims to be from a company, postpone your decision and reach out to that company on a different number or channel. Often, this practical approach will allow you to think more rationally, and dodge the scammer.
4 – BE WISE!
Another useful way to avoid being scammed is to double-check the claims or requests being made. For instance, if you are being warned about overdue bills and threatened with an impending disconnection of a specific service, request more information from the caller or sender. This can also buy you some time to make other verifications, such as checking your bills, to better determine if it is a legitimate request. If you are not convinced, or if the sender does not reply, be wise and stop that communication.
5- BE QUICK!
Regrettably, it is still possible to miss these red flags and get caught up in a scam. If you do, try to stay composed, as panic will not help and may lead to worse outcomes. Take immediate action to address the situation. For example, if you installed an app you think is fraudulent, turn off your phone right away to minimise the risk of allowing the scammer to reach out to other victims and harm others. Speak to your telephony provider, using another device, and seek assistance on how to reset your device or remove such ‘malware’. If you shared sensitive information with a likely scammer, reach out to the legitimate company or service provider you thought you were communicating with and share your experience. Ask for further assistance on any available remedies, and for further information that may help you recover from the experience.
Scams are unlikely to disappear any time soon - as technology evolves, so will scamming techniques continue to become increasingly sophisticated in nature. However, by keeping these five tips in mind, you will be better prepared to identify scams and prevent yourself from becoming another victim.