Don’t get swindled by scammers

Financial scams seem to hit my email inbox on a daily basis, not to mention all the fraudulent texts and phone calls I receive despite adding my number to the “Do Not Call List.” To make matters worse, websites and applications track our browsing, purchasing and location history, which attackers leverage to create extremely effective personalized scams.

Most scams have a compelling story about why you need to pay. Scammers pretend they’re calling from the government, a business, utility, tech company or even a charity. Sometimes they will even call about a family emergency. Recently, there has been an increase in calls with an alert about a virus on your computer that needs to be fixed. In almost every instance, they pressure you to make an immediate payment.

We constantly need to be on the lookout for fraud and scams, and as attackers increase their skills, they are becoming more and more difficult to spot. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that may prevent you from becoming a victim.

There are many red flags that indicate someone is trying to scam you. If they tell you that you must load money on a gift card, that’s a scam. If they want to send you a check to cash and have you send the money back, that’s a scam, and you will be on the hook for the money after it is discovered that the check is fake.

If they require immediate payment through a money transfer company like MoneyGram or Western Union or have you go purchase cryptocurrency, those are scams. If there’s a sense of urgency that involves immediate payment, it is likely a scam.

Is it too good to be true? That’s a question you should ask yourself when determining if something is a scam. Often, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers will try and rush you into deciding, so you don’t have much time to give it any thought. This should be a red flag indicating that you need to take a closer look and verify the facts.

We have seen many scammers impersonate electric cooperatives. They typically call and say if you don’t pay your bill, they are going to shut off your power. Often they will tell you to purchase a prepaid debit card to make payment to avoid disconnection. They will also give you a short amount of time to make the payment.

Your electric cooperative will never require payment with a prepaid debit card. Members with delinquent accounts will receive an advance disconnection notification. Taking the time to slow down and digest what is in front of you before making any decisions will help bring clarity to the situation.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Sometimes it is a good idea to do a search for the company in question and simply call and verify. Just be sure you look up the number yourself and don’t call the number they provided.

Next time you find yourself questioning whether or not something is a scam, take a moment to slow down and assess the situation. If you are suspicious, always get a second opinion from someone you trust.