Phishing and Other Common Scams

Phishing: A type of cybercrime that involves a bad actor attempting to trick you into providing your personal information, most commonly via an official-looking email. These emails are intended to appear as if they are coming from a company you know or trust, and they often prompt you to update your personal information though a link the scammer has provided. To identify these types of emails, pay close attention to:

  • Sender names
  • Email extensions
  • Links and file attachments
  • Impersonal language
  • Poor grammar and punctuation

Romance Scam: A type of cybercrime that involves a bad actor developing a relationship with someone in order to steal their identity or gain enough trust to request access to financial accounts. To avoid this type of scam:

  • Only accept connections on social media from people you know
  • Be cautious when sharing personal information online
  • Do not send money to someone you met online

Employment Scam: A type of cybercrime that takes advantage of job seekers in a variety of ways, including unsolicited emails and posts on community listings platforms, job boards and social media platforms. Scammers have several purposes, depending on the scam: to collect confidential information to use for identity theft, to get you to cash fraudulent checks, to wire or send money and to get you to pay for services or supplies. To spot this type of scam, be cautious of:

  • A job offer received without applying, interviewing or discussing the position with the employer
  • A request from a potential employer company to wire money or provide credit card information
  • A request from a potential employer company to provide personal information like your social security number or driver’s license number
  • A promise of disproportionately high pay for a small amount of work
  • A request from an employer company for you to pay for a credit report as part of your application process
  • Being told that, if hired, you must pay for training
  • A request from an employer company to cash a check and forward some of the money to a third party
  • Unclear salary details; potential employer company is not offering an hourly rate or annual salary

Mystery Shopping Scam: A type of cybercrime that is often hard to identify because some mystery shopping opportunities are legitimate ways to make extra money and get free products or services. However, the lure of free stuff and easy money can also be an easy hook for con artists who are looking for victims. If you are considering any mystery shopping opportunities, educate yourself about the difference between legitimate secret shopping jobs and potential mystery shopping scams, such as:

Check Cashing Scams: A form of online fraud that is among the costliest of all mystery shopping scams, check cashing scams can cost victims thousands of dollars. This type of scam typically involves a mystery shopper who is given a job and sent a check to cash, along with instructions to keep some of the money as payment and return another portion of the money back to the mystery shopping company by wire transfer. Problems tend to arise when the check from the employer company eventually bounces — only after the mystery shopper/victim successfully wires funds, leaving the victim on the hook for the money. To avoid this type of scam, don’t cash checks or send money on anyone’s behalf./p>

Mystery Shopping Fees: Scammers often try to convince victims that a mystery shopping opportunity is worth paying for, and also that there is a need to convince a company that’s offering the opportunity that an applicant is seriously interested. Always remember that companies pay their employees to do work for the company – not the other way around. Certifications, classes and other in-depth training are not necessary to be a mystery shopper, and plenty of online resources are available for free so there is no reason to pay for lists or directories. Any company that attempts to charge you a fee as a condition of employment is likely a scam, even if they do provide a list or directory that they present as proprietary information.

When it comes to mystery shopping, remember this: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Mystery shopping doesn’t typically pay much, and companies that promise big payoffs for a small amount of work are likely not legitimate.

For more information about specific scams and tips on how to avoid becoming a target, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Online Security resources here.

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