It’s no secret that the internet has become an integral part of our lives, offering convenience, connectivity, and a wealth of information.
However, along with its many benefits, the online world is also rife with scams and fraudulent activities that can pose a significant threat to unsuspecting Americans. Today, we’ll take a closer look at some of the more common tactics used by scammers.
If you have been a victim of a scam, at the end of this post, we’ll offer up a list of assistance organizations you might want to contact.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
By late 2022, about 43.5 million Americans held student loan debt (Federal Reserve). “The average federal student loan debt is $37,338 per borrower,” says Melanie Hanson at Educational Data Initiative.
Those with private loans owe nearly $18,000 more.
Scammers take advantage of this by offering bogus student loan forgiveness programs. They often promise to eliminate or significantly reduce your student debt in exchange for an upfront fee or sensitive personal information.
Although President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program has been blocked by the Supreme Court, legitimate loan forgiveness programs do exist. These are typically offered by the government or reputable financial institutions.
Be cautious of unsolicited offers and always research before providing any personal or financial information.
Tech Support Scam
Tech support scams prey on individuals’ concerns about computer security and technical issues. Scammers may reach out via phone, email, or pop-up ads claiming to be from reputable tech companies.
They create a sense of urgency by warning you of a virus or malware on your computer and offer to fix the problem for a fee.
“They often ask you to pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card, or cash reload card, or using cryptocurrency or a money transfer app because they know those types of payments can be hard to reverse,” cautions the experts with the Federal Trade Commission.
They suggest, “If you get a phone call you didn’t expect from someone who says there’s a problem with your computer, hang up.”
In reality, they are only after your money or personal information. Remember, legitimate tech support companies do not proactively contact customers unless there is an ongoing support agreement.
This scam is so common that entire YouTube channels and even companies are devoted to rooting out the scammers.
Romance scams, also known as ‘catfishing,’ exploit the emotional vulnerabilities of individuals seeking love or companionship online. Scammers create fake profiles on dating websites or social media platforms and build relationships with their victims.
They start out trying to gain trust and affection before the relentless requests for money start rolling in.
You may recognize these scammers, both male and female, on Facebook. These are the people who show up in a thread unrelated to romance or dating and flattering a person in the thread before asking for permission to private message. This is where the hook is set.
If you are involved in one of these scams, the experts agree that you should cease contact immediately. Don’t send any additional money and close accounts to which the catfisher has access.
Please also visit SocialCatfish.com to learn more about this scam and what to look out for.
It is crucial to remain cautious when engaging in online relationships, especially if someone you’ve never met requests money or personal information.
If you’re in the market for a puppy, you may just meet up with a puppy scammer. Many of the websites that sell puppies are run by these crooks.
“In one instance documented by the BBB [Better Business Bureau], a woman paid $850 for a Dalmatian puppy, only to receive additional requests for money — first $725 for travel insurance for the dog, then $615 for a special crate,” says Patrick J. Kiger and Sari Harrar at aarp.org.
“In the end, the buyer lost $2,200 and never got the puppy — which didn’t actually exist,” they warned.
Of course, we always recommend to our friends and clients that they get their puppy from an animal shelter, rescue, or a reputable local breeder. If you do fall in love with a puppy online, do a reverse image search to ensure it isn’t a photo taken from another site. Insist on seeing the puppy and having a vet check it before you give the person any money.
Read more about puppy scams and how to recognize them at AARP.org.
Victim Assistance Resources
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a scam, there are resources available to provide assistance and support. Here are some organizations and agencies that can help:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC offers resources for reporting scams and provides guidance on how to recover from identity theft or fraud.
Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB’s Scam Tracker provides scam alerts, consumer tips, and a platform to report fraudulent activities.
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): Operated by the FBI, IC3 accepts online scams and cybercrime complaints.
Local Law Enforcement: Contact your local police department to report scams and seek guidance on legal action or further investigation.
Remember, if you encounter a scam or suspect fraudulent activity, report it to the appropriate authorities and seek assistance from victim support organizations to help you navigate recovery. Stay safe and protect yourself from online scams.