How Scams Work And Why It Matters


What is a scam?

Scams come in many different forms, and all of them are dishonest plots for con artists to wrongfully gain currency or information.  They tend to target individuals’ weaknesses, and such events can take a massive toll on a person’s life and assets. A con artists goal is to seem as professional and legitimate as possible so the victim will suspect nothing. Scams can be carried out in many ways, such as phone calls, emails, snail mail, malware/viruses, and even in person. Common scams will A. Tell you something too good to be true. B. Involve family or financials. C. Ask you to do something for them. Being able to identify a scam can save you time, money, and dignity. Keeping informed keeps you from being an easy target.

How scammers get your info

In the age of information and technology, it’s easier than ever to disperse personal data on a large scale, whether you wanted to or not. Social media, surveys, contests, and even public records are data goldmines for con artists. This information is available to practically anyone on the internet, including those with malicious intent. This data helps scammers target your weaknesses, and gives them a better understanding of their target and how they operate. The best thing you can do is limit the amount of personal information you give out. Making social media profiles only available to known individuals is a great start. No one can help that public records are readily available, so staying current on scam awareness is crucial.

Sales vs. Scams – How can you tell?

Let’s face it- nobody likes sales reps or scam artists, but at times it can be difficult to tell the difference. Verifying the validity of the business and/or the representative is a great thing to do before you decide to hand over money. Ask for an invoice for the proposed sale to further insure authenticity. Listen to your instincts and intuition to judge the person at hand, and don’t be too quick to hand over your hard-earned dollars. If the representative is persistently rushing you to complete the sale, it is most likely illegitimate. Con artists will also ask you to send money grams, or to buy a prepaid visa and give them the information. These are huge indicators of a scam, so if you have any doubts, call someone you trust or call AARP’s Fraud Watch hotline at (877-908-3360). It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Phone Scams

Among the most common scams are pursued by phone due to the accessibility of individual contact information. Con artists play the part of businesses and government agencies, and may use scare tactics in attempt to receive a payout. It is important to note that companies and governments will never attempt to contact you over the phone, but by mail that is officially postmarked by the address and entity. Common scams in this category include but are not limited to; IRS threats, Jury Duty fines, Microsoft technical support, and government grants. Scammers will rarely leave voicemails, so if you don’t recognize the number calling you, it is best practice to not answer in the first place. If you have any suspicion about who you are on the phone with, hang up immediately and file a complaint with the FTC. Just remember this: official entities will contact you through the post, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Email Scams

Many people have private information sent to them using email. This includes billing, account and personal information, passwords, and more. This makes you and your email vulnerable to potential thieves. Scams in this category vary greatly, ranging from fake invoices, false payment links, and links that steal your login info for a site. Emails can even deploy viruses on your computer that locks you out, grants the attacker your information, then demands a bounty to unlock your PC. Use discretion when working with emails relating to your private information. Utilize identifying factors of emails you know are legitimate, and if you have any suspicion, call the company directly to make sure it is authentic. Make sure to keep up-to-date on credit reports and bank statements to catch potential problems quickly. Visit our link to the FTC for more in depth info on email scams.

How to research scams

Scams are everywhere, and are seemingly unavoidable. Although the frequency of attempts is disheartening, it’s also useful for getting the word out and helping others to identify malicious attempts. If you encounter suspicious activity, you can simply google details of the situation (such as names, emails, numbers, addresses, etc.) and find information of similar occurrences to aid in your discretion. You can also use this in most cases to find out if the person you’re dealing with is legitimate or not. If you find out there has been an attempt to scam you or someone you know, you can easily report the attempt online to spread awareness and help others to not fall victim.  

How to report

Scams are prevalent in many categories, and must be reported accordingly. has a full list of categories and who to contact for them. This site also contains in depth information on most types. Scams can be very difficult to recover from, so prevention is key. Stay informed and help others do the same. You can prevent scams!

2020 Date fraud – don’t abbreviate 2020 on documents

This allows the date to be potentially manipulated by adding extra numbers to a future date. Ex. 1/1/20 into 1/1/2021