They’re in your email. They’re in your text messages. And you probably have a host of unknown numbers in your phone’s list of recently received calls. Scammers. It feels like they’re growing in numbers, and there’s not much that we can do to stop them.
“Scammers have this device that’s called a spoofer and it can mimic virtually any kind of phone number from any part of the country,” says Oana Schneider with the Better Business Bureau, “I actually had a case where I was calling myself, and I wasn’t.”
Scammers are always evolving, looking for new ways to try and get your money. Now that there’s a COVID vaccine, scammers are calling and emailing people, telling them they can get the vaccine for a price.
One robocall even proclaims, “You have the chance to avoid anticipated long lines and get a single dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine sent to your home for a one-time payment of $79.99.”
The bottom line: you do not have to pay to get the vaccine, and the only way to get a shot is to follow the guidelines in your state. We have a list of who is eligible in each county and how to make an appointment here.
Another example of crooks trying to seize the moment. With this one, you don’t always get a phone call, or an email, or a text. Most people don’t even know they’re a victim until they are contacted about an unemployment claim they never made.
To protect yourself, the BBB suggests: report suspicious notifications about an employment claim that you never made, check your credit report, or consider freezing your credit, and set up transaction alerts with your bank or credit union.
Package tracking scams
With so many people shopping online nowadays, scammers are trying to cash in on your purchase. One such way they do so is by sending you a text message claiming to be from FedEx or UPS.
You should never click on these links. By clicking on a link from an unsolicited text or email, you could be downloading malware to your phone or computer. And if you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with a packaging delivery company, do not give them your personal information.
You might be tempted to respond to one of these text scams, but Schneider advises against doing that, “They have a phone number and they don’t know for sure that your phone number is still active. By you responding to a text message it lets them know that for sure, somebody is using this phone number and they will continue to contact you.”
Phishing scams are also popular with more and more people working from home. Scammers are “phishing” for your personal information. According to the BBB, phishing messages typically use one of three methods to fool victims:
The message promises a reward (gift card, free item)
Threatens a punishment (unpaid taxes, missed jury duty, deactivated bank account)
Appears harmless (a file from the office scanner or from a coworker)
These scams pop up every year. The scammer typically pretends to be with the IRS saying you owe back taxes, or you’re being audited, and they threaten you with fines or arrest. In some cases, your caller ID may even say the call is from Washington, D.C.
So how do you know the difference between a scammer and the IRS?
The IRS will always initiate contact with you by mail, not phone or email. Nor will they pressure you to act quickly. They will also never demand immediate payment, require a specific form of payment, or ask for credit card or debt card numbers over the phone.
If you are the victim of tax identity theft in the U.S., contact the IRS at 1-800-908-4490. You should also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commi ssion (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC also offers a personalized identity theft recovery plan at identitytheft.gov.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, these are some of the other common types of scams:
“If you got scammed, please let the local authorities know about this,” says Schneider, “Report this as soon as possible because the faster you can do this, the better the chances that we’re going to track somebody at some point.”