Criminals are constantly changing their game to trip you up.
While you may be hearing from fewer Nigerian princes looking to share their wealth these days, as Mike Snyder, Federal Communications Commission media relations representative, told Mic: financial fraud is alive and well, and mobile phone scams in particular are a major way fraudsters are tricking people in 2017.
Telemarketing, robocalls and caller ID spoofing are among the top complaints fielded by the FCC. There are also a host of fraudulent calls about the IRS, warranties and insurance (especially auto warranties), vacation deals, student loans, credit card loans, threats of legal action and health care scams, Snyder added in an email.
1. The phony iCloud breach
The scam: Scammers reach people by phone, saying their data was hacked or breached through iCloud, Apple’s online data storage service. The scam is so effective because it sounds plausible, what with all the reports of data breaches, Business Insider notes. The initial call is a robocall, which offers to connect the prospective victim to a live person who can “help.” The individual on the phone says they can fix the problem if provided personal information (which could possibly include your Apple ID password, credit card information). The scammers will use flattery and may even an offer of a free iTunes gift card to poach your information, Apple says.
Never share your Apple ID or temporary verification codes with anyone, Apple advises. And using two-factor identification will add an extra layer of protection to your account.
2. The shady taxi lost-and-found service
The scam: You are in a hurry and forget your bag or phone in the cab. What do you do? Use a helpful service, like Yellowcabnyc.com, to locate your missing item. Sounds legit, considering it has all the vital keywords like NYC and yellow cab, right? Unfortunately, this “service” offers to locate your lost item for $47, which of course goes directly into the scammer’s pocket and your item is seemingly never retrieved, the New York Post reported.
3. Airline ticket giveaway
The scam: If you put off booking that airline ticket for summer until now, you are probably thirsting for a last-minute deal. Then you happen to see an email or post on Facebook or Craigslist offering one. All you need to do is wire cash for the ticket to a Western Union account and you are given the ticket confirmation number. Unfortunately when it’s time to travel, you find out the “ticket” you purchased doesn’t exist.
Scammers steal credit card information and purchase airline tickets, Scam Detector says. They cancel the trip for credit but retain the ticket’s confirmation number. Then they sell the ticket at a “discounted” rate on a site like Craigslist, Kijiji, Oodle or Gumtree and make the sale look legit because they provide the confirmation number.
4. The bogus government grant
The scam: Score! You receive a phone call that you’ve been awarded a healthy government grant because you paid your taxes on time. All you need to do is provide your checking account information so the money can be automatically transferred to your account, but also to cover a one-time processing fee. The caller may say they are from the “Federal Grants Administration” so the call sounds legitimate, but the scam is to obtain access to your bank account.
5. The imaginary vacation rental
The scam: The vacation rental house looks perfect online and the price is right — but is it? Fake vacation rentals and time-share offers account for about 8% of reports to the Better Business Bureau scam tracker in 2017. Scammers may hijack an actual vacation rental ad, posing as the agent to grab your money for the rental or will fabricate a fake ad, designing a property that doesn’t even exist, the FTC says.
Before you pay for a vacation rental, be wary of someone asking you to wire the cash to them, the FTC advises.
6. The tax bill you don’t actually owe
The scam: About 5% of the scams reported to the BBB are criminals posing as IRS agents, threatening criminal prosecution for being remiss on paying your taxes. The “agent” claims they can waive arrest if you pay a hefty fine through a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer, the IRS says. The latest version of this scam includes the scammer telling the potential victim that two certified letters were mailed to the victim but were returned as being undeliverable.
Know that the IRS will never ask for credit or debit information over the phone or demand immediate payment without the opportunity to appeal the amount, the IRS advises.
7. The “spear phishing” email
The scam: While phishing accounts for 34% of the BBB’s complaints this year, “spear phishing” is on the rise. Phishing is when a business emails you and asks to “verify” your personal information, like your Social Security number, credit card numbers or passwords. “Spear phishing” gives the scam a more personal flavor, as it appears to come from someone you know and sounds more personal, USA Today says. This approach is far more dangerous because your guard may not be up, making you more likely to fall for this scam.
As with any scam, be cautious of any emails asking for you to click on a link, USA Today advises. Also, legitimate companies aren’t going to ask for your password, and if a “friend” sends the email, reach out separately and ask if the friend really sent that message — sometimes tiny differences in an email address are hard to spot.