Frontwave Blog

Today’s Top Scams — and How to Protect Yourself

We all know 2020 was a tough year. And as if the pandemic and the economic crisis weren’t enough, fraud and scams also plagued many. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 2.2 million reports of fraud were filed in 2020, with losses totaling nearly $3.3 billion. Among all those reports, three types of fraud rose to the top as the most common — and costly. Here’s what the FTC found, and what you can do to help keep from becoming a victim.

#1 — Imposter Fraud

The top fraud of 2020 was imposter scams. Imposter scams come in many varieties, but generally work the same way: a scammer pretends to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money. These scammers may wear many different hats — from pretending to be from the IRS, to your bank or credit union, to a close family member or friend. Imposter scammers tend to follow the headlines, so it’s little surprise that COVID-19 and stimulus scams were among the most commonly reported in 2020.

#2 — Online Shopping Fraud

If you’re like most of us, you probably ramped up your online shopping during the pandemic. For more 350,000 people, these online shopping forays ended with sellers failing to deliver on promises — or just failing to deliver, period. According to the FT, online shoppers lost more than $245 million to fraud in 2020, with a median loss of about $100.

#3 — Phone Scams

Believe it or not, the phone is still the top way that scammers are reaching us, says the FTC. In particular, there was a sharp increase in the number of people reporting scammers reaching out via text message in 2020. And like the imposter scams above, many of these text messages were related to the pandemic, including texts that tried to lure people into clicking on links with promises of stimulus relief and loans for small businesses.

Tips for Protecting Yourself

Though we might have rolled the calendar into a new year, these scams aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. But there are a number of steps you can take to keep from becoming a victim:

  1. Block unwanted calls and text messages. Many phone carriers now allow you to do this for free. Reach out to your carrier if you need assistance.
  2. Never give out personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t initiate. Legitimate organizations, including Frontwave Credit Union, won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
  3. If you get an email or text from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, verify it with the company before clicking on any links. Look up the company’s contact information from a trusted source, such as their website, and dial it directly. Don’t use a number from the email or text, or from your caller ID.
  4. Just say no to pressure tactics. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.
  5. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. Also, don’t deposit a check and then send some of that money back to the person who sent it to you. While your bank may put the money in your account at first, chances are good that check won’t actually clear, leaving you out of pocket.
  6. If something seems too good to be true, stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

Also be sure to check out our other tips on preventing identity theft, avoiding online shopping scams and protecting yourself from COVID-19 scams.