Avoid Online Scams This Summer
Most of us increase our online activity in the summer as we plan our vacations, search for what we need for that overdue home repair, shop for that summer sale bargain, or even what to do in your city when the weather is nice. Scammers are always looking to take advantage of people, significantly as your search presence increases on social media.
Nowadays, it’s just not older people who are the targets of online scams. Everyone is at risk. Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z have a higher chance of getting conned than the elderly do, based on recent studies.
Here are tips on what to look for and how to protect yourself:
Double Check Invoice and Money Requests
While invoices could come from legitimate-looking sources you use, like Venmo or PayPal, if you don’t recognize the seller’s name, it could be a scam. PayPal suggests taking a close look at your invoice details. Review the name and your payment history with that seller. If it’s suspicious, don’t pay it and report it. The same advice goes for money requests. PayPal advises consumers not to click a link attached to the suspicious request or contact the person at the number connected to the request.
Don’t fall for big promises of guaranteed high returns
If you scroll through social media, it’s easy to stumble on a bank or investment account that promises that if you pay for advice, a so-called expert will teach you to “beat the market” with higher-earning investments or accounts. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, reminds consumers that there’s no such thing as a full-proof investment with little risk. If someone promises big money or rewards, they’re likely at best to be putting you in a high-risk investment or, at worst, just trying to take your money.
Unsolicited Offers or Tech Requests
If you get an unexpected call, text, or email from someone representing, for example, your bank, an online store, or a credit card with an offer, it’s likely a phishing scam. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Only click links from senders you know or have confirmed. Tech providers like Apple or Microsoft do not call you about your computers. Don’t respond to unsolicited offers or tech requests. Hit block and delete.
Generally, only use CPAs or Enrolled Agents to prepare your returns or give you tax advice. The IRS advises you to be wary of tax preparers who refuse to sign your tax return or charge a fee based on the size of your tax refund. Never sign a blank or incomplete return given to you by a preparer. Also, never give someone your information to set up an online tax account; take the time to start an online account with the IRS yourself. Lastly, never share your tax information in response to an unsolicited email from a taxing authority without confirming the notice first by calling the sender (even if it is the IRS).
This trick is nearly as old as time. If a sweepstake representative calls, sends a text, or emails saying you’ve won and wants to mail you a check, and all you need to do is pay a small fee, don’t fall for it. The FTC reports actual sweepstakes won’t ask you to pay tax, shipping, and/or processing fees.
If you or someone you know thinks you’ve been scammed, report it at: ReportFraud.ftc.gov.