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Avoiding Unexpected Scams

by Paul Ebeling


Vigilance is Key to avoid becoming a victim of a scam” — Paul Ebeling

US consumers reported losing $3.3-B to fraud in Y 2020, while over 60% of Americans state that they have been a victim of a scam in the past. Fraudsters are getting particularly skillful, meaning the type of fraud you may encounter goes beyond what may be expected.

Phone scams and e-Mail scams are still regular vectors for criminals, but you may need to be wary of emerging or unexpected fraud types, including insurance, romance and even reward point fraud.

Auto insurance scams: Getting into an accident is stressful enough without adding fraud into the mix. However, there has been an increase in insurance fraud targeting unwary US drivers. Nearly 33% of US drivers believe they’ve been a victim of car insurance fraud, which can take several forms.

A further 26% of US drivers reported that mechanics fraudulently installed faulty air bags that had to be replaced later, and 25% stated that they were victims of predatory and unwanted towing.

Not all types of auto insurance scams are preventable. However, making sure to call the police and file a report following an accident is a good idea. Additionally, take pictures of all visible damage on your vehicle and the other vehicle in the case of an accident that involves more than one car.

The proliferation of social media and dating apps has made romance scams much easier to pull off, and has helped increase how many scams of this type now occur. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported losses of over $300 million to romance scams in Y 2020. The average age of a romance scam victim is 50 anni, while 63% of victims are women.

It can be difficult to avoid being a romance scam victim. However, the simplest avoidance method is to never give money to a potential romantic interest that you have never met in person. Confirm the identity of any love interests. If they start asking for money, that is the Red flag.

As you start aging, health careand Medicare become major concerns, especially as research shows that Medicare Supplement plans may cost as much as $784 per month, based on some pricing structures. This is a factor that scammers take advantage of as they target older Americans with phone and email scams that attempt to tap into fear and greed.

Many Medicare and health care scams will come in via phone calls. Scammers may claim that you’re due a refund for medical costs or expenses. Or, they may claim that you owe additional money for medical expenses.

Some may seem more benign, making the claim that you need to verify your identity, typically in order to receive money or to complete a Medicare or healthcare approval process.

Many fraudsters have taken advantage of the ongoing VirusCasedemic to separate victims from their money and identity. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers a warning about fraud related to COVID-19.

Be suspicious of any call you receive asking for your identity or credit card information related to health care or Medicare services. If you do get a call from someone claiming to be from a service related to health care or Medicare, do not give information over the phone.

Instead, go to that organization’s website, find a verified phone number, and independently initiate a call to see if there’s anything you need to do related to any account you may have with them.  

Scammers are increasingly targeting accounts with rewards points, which at times can be worth hundreds of dollars.

The term for this is loyalty program fraud, and access to these accounts comes down to weak password security. Cybercriminals will use what is known as credential stuffing to input stolen username and password combinations into accounts. When they get a hit, they will steal the existing points and any further points you acquire as long as they have access to the account.

They will then sell accounts with accrued points on the dark web for as little as a few dollars or as much as several hundred dollars, especially for accounts with airline miles.

No loyalty reward accounts are free from threat. Everything from pizza delivery accounts to gas cards is up for grabs. This issue extends beyond the points, however. When hackers can confirm that a username and password combination works to gain access to one of your accounts, they will try it on other accounts.

To prevent this type of fraud, use strong and unique passwords or passphrases across your accounts. Save passwords to a secure password manager to help you handle those multiple unique passwords. Implement multifactor authentication when possible. If a fraudster can access one of your accounts, they can probably access multiple accounts, increasing the risk of financial losses and account takeovers.

And never cash the “unexpected” check.

The Bottom Line: These are only a few fraud concerns. Vigilance is essential to avoid becoming a victim of a scam. As most fraud is built around a scammer’s hope to gain access to private data or accounts, you can avoid most fraud attempts by never giving out private information over the phone to numbers you do not recognize or cannot verify, never answering or clicking on links in suspicious e-Mails, and improving the security of your private accounts.

Have a prosperous day, Keep the Faith!

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