Avoid New Scam Techniques

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Ways to Avoid Scams in 2020

Start the new year with 4 tips from Capital One’s head of US credit card fraud Sarah Strauss

January 9, 2020 | 7 min read

The growing number of digital touchpoints in our lives means more ways to get scammed—and as we start 2020, scammers are as polished as ever. They know what to say and how to manipulate situations to make themselves seem legitimate.

Here are four tips to help protect your personal information and keep your 2020 scam-free!

The 2020s were an incredible decade that brought us innovations like mainstream electric cars, home voice assistants, avocado toast and unicorn lattes—just to name a few. On the other hand, the decade was also great for digital fraudsters, who have become increasingly sophisticated in how they target and get information from their victims.

The growing number of digital touchpoints in our lives means more ways to get scammed—and as we start 2020, scammers are as polished as ever. They know what to say and how to manipulate situations to make themselves seem legitimate.

Here are four tips to help protect your personal information and keep your 2020 scam-free!

1. Use Gift Cards for Gifts, Not Payments

As far as I’m aware, no bank, government agency or legitimate debt collector will ask you to make payments using gift cards. If someone does, that’s a huge red flag. Look up the company or entity online and contact them directly to confirm. Generally, if anyone is asking you to purchase gift cards or use them for payments, you should view that as suspicious.

2. Be Vigilant on Social Media and Across the Web

And don’t let bad merchants or fake merchandise get your 2020 off to a sad start. When you see product ads online, beware of low-quality or Photoshopped images. You can use a search engine to look up the company in the ad and see what other customers have to say. In general, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Fraudsters use social media to target you for your personal information. Never share personal, banking or password information on these platforms. Even a fun quiz that creates your superhero name using your mother’s maiden name can be used to target your accounts!

And don’t let bad merchants or fake merchandise get your 2020 off to a sad start. When you see product ads online, beware of low-quality or Photoshopped images. You can use a search engine to look up the company in the ad and see what other customers have to say. In general, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Don’t Be Fooled by Fraudulent Offers

Don’t be fooled—any check you receive or pending payment from them you see in your account will likely bounce. And it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover anything you already sent the fraudster.

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Fraudsters may also try to target you by offering an opportunity to make quick profits for relatively little work. They may promise to make payments to you if you add them as a user to an account, giving them control of it, or if you send them money or goods—usually electronics and gift cards.

Don’t be fooled—any check you receive or pending payment from them you see in your account will likely bounce. And it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover anything you already sent the fraudster.

4. Protect Your Accounts and Personal Information

You should be vigilant against two types of phishing:

Phone Phishing

Phone phishing is when a fraudster calls directly and asks you to do something like provide personal information.

For example, a fraudster may be trying to access your account, so your bank sends you a one-time PIN to ensure it’s you. The fraudster may call you and pretend to be your bank: The fraudster claims your account has been hacked and asks for that one-time PIN (or other documents) to verify it’s you. In reality, the fraudster plans to use the information to finish getting into your account!

Fraudsters are great at making this situation seem legitimate and pressuring you to act quickly. They may even send you a text message pretending to be your bank and telling you they will call you shortly! And, when they do call, sometimes they can spoof your bank’s phone number, so it looks real but is not.

Spotting the real vs. the fake is hard! In these situations, I recommend you hang up and call your bank directly (using the number online or on the back of your credit or debit card), to be sure you’re speaking to the real company about a real concern.

Email Phishing

Email phishing is when a fraudster sends an email message appearing to be from a legitimate entity. The email may have a link that asks you to provide or update personal information. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to check the sender’s email address to see if you have other messages from them. You can also hover over the link to see where it’s taking you.

If the request seems suspicious or you don’t understand why you are getting it, the safest option is to call the company or sign in to your digital account to see if there are any security messages.

To sum things up, avoiding scams takes vigilance and a bit of caution. If you have any scam concerns regarding a Capital One account, please call us at the number on the back of your Capital One credit or debit card so we can help you resolve them. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020 for you and your loved ones!

There are a number of ways bad actors can target you and your accounts in an attempt to get your personal information. One way is phishing, and Capital One® has observed a rise in this over the past few years. Phishing is when a fraudster contacts you pretending to represent a trustworthy source, like your bank or other legal entity, and uses what they already know about you to build trust and get more information from you.

You should be vigilant against two types of phishing:

Phone Phishing

Phone phishing is when a fraudster calls directly and asks you to do something like provide personal information.

For example, a fraudster may be trying to access your account, so your bank sends you a one-time PIN to ensure it’s you. The fraudster may call you and pretend to be your bank: The fraudster claims your account has been hacked and asks for that one-time PIN (or other documents) to verify it’s you. In reality, the fraudster plans to use the information to finish getting into your account!

Fraudsters are great at making this situation seem legitimate and pressuring you to act quickly. They may even send you a text message pretending to be your bank and telling you they will call you shortly! And, when they do call, sometimes they can spoof your bank’s phone number, so it looks real but is not.

Spotting the real vs. the fake is hard! In these situations, I recommend you hang up and call your bank directly (using the number online or on the back of your credit or debit card), to be sure you’re speaking to the real company about a real concern.

Email Phishing

Email phishing is when a fraudster sends an email message appearing to be from a legitimate entity. The email may have a link that asks you to provide or update personal information. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to check the sender’s email address to see if you have other messages from them. You can also hover over the link to see where it’s taking you.

If the request seems suspicious or you don’t understand why you are getting it, the safest option is to call the company or sign in to your digital account to see if there are any security messages.

To sum things up, avoiding scams takes vigilance and a bit of caution. If you have any scam concerns regarding a Capital One account, please call us at the number on the back of your Capital One credit or debit card so we can help you resolve them. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2020 for you and your loved ones!

Coronavirus Scams: What the FTC is doing

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Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus.

Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2020 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
  • Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
  • Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

Stay Connected

Like what you see?

  • Bookmark this site (ftc.gov/coronavirus) to check back for updates.
  • Subscribe to alerts for consumers and businesses to keep up with the latest scams.
  • Like our FTC Facebook page.
  • Follow @FTC for the latest tweets from the FTC.

What the FTC is Doing

The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.

The FTC says the companies have no evidence to back up their claims — as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. Read more about the warning letters.

Law Enforcement Actions

Blog Posts

Scammy Calls About the Coronavirus

Recordings courtesy of Nomorobo.

Other FTC Activities

Learn more about the agency’s response to the Coronavirus, including how the agency is addressing competition matters.

Prevention tips

Take these tips with you to become a smarter consumer and avoid fraud:

Know who you’re dealing with. In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Pay the safest way. Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information. Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Stay safe online. Don’t send sensitive information such as credit card numbers by email because it’s not secure. Look for clues about security on Web sites. At the point where you are asked to provide your financial or other sensitive information, the letters at the beginning of the address bar at the top of the screen should change from “http” to “https” or “shttp.” Your browser may also show that the information is being encrypted, or scrambled, so no one who might intercept it can read it. But while your information may be safe in transmission, that’s no guarantee that the company will store it securely. See what Web sites say about how your information is safeguarded in storage.

Be cautious about unsolicited emails. They are often fraudulent. If you are familiar with the company or charity that sent you the email and you don’t want to receive further messages, send a reply asking to be removed from the email list. However, responding to unknown senders may simply verify that yours is a working email address and result in even more unwanted messages from strangers. The best approach may simply be to delete the email.

Resist pressure. Legitimate companies and charities will be happy to give you time to make a decision. It’s probably a scam if they demand that you act immediately or won’t take “No” for an answer. Some scammers may also demand you pay off a loan immediately or damaging consequences may occur, always take time to look into who is requesting the money before you pay up.

Don’t believe promises of easy money. If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Fully understand the offer. A legitimate seller will give you all the details about the products or services, the total price, the delivery time, the refund and cancellation policies, and the terms of any warranty. Contact the seller if any of these details are missing, if they are unable to provide the details, it may be a sign that it’s a scam.

Get off credit marketing lists. Credit bureaus compile marketing lists for pre-approved offers of credit. These mailings are a goldmine for identity thieves, who may steal them and apply for credit in your name. Get off these mailing lists by calling 888-567-8688 (your social security number will be required to verify your identity). Removing yourself from these lists does not hurt your chances of applying for or getting credit.

Check your credit reports regularly. If you find accounts that don’t belong to you or other incorrect information, follow the instructions for disputing those items. You can ask for free copies of your credit reports in certain situations. If you were denied credit because of information in a credit report, you can ask the credit bureau that the report came from for a free copy of your file. And if you are the victim of identity theft, you can ask all three of the major credit bureaus for free copies of your reports. Contact the credit bureaus at: Equifax , 800-685-111; Experian , 800-311-4769; TransUnion , 800-888-4213.

Everyone can request free copies of their credit reports once a year. In addition to the rights described above, a new federal law entitles all consumers to ask each of the three major credit bureaus for free copies of their reports once in every 12-month period. Go to www.ftc.gov/credit or call 877-382-4357 for more details and to see when you can make your requests. You don’t have to ask all three credit bureaus for your reports at the same time; you can stagger your requests if you prefer. Do not contact the credit bureaus directly for these free annual reports. They are only available by calling 877-322-8228 or going to www.annualcreditreport.com . You can make your requests by phone or online, or download a form to mail your requests.

Be cautious about offers for credit monitoring services. Why pay extra for them when you can get your credit reports for free or very cheap? Read the description of the services carefully. Unless you’re a victim of serious and ongoing identity theft, buying a service that alerts you to certain activities in your credit files probably isn’t worthwhile, especially if it costs hundreds of dollars a year. You can purchase copies of your credit reports anytime for about $9 through the bureaus’ Web sites or by phone: Equifax , 800-685-111; Experian , 800-311-4769; TransUnion , 800-888-4213.

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