Criminals called “scammers” will target unsuspecting shoppers online and in person to steal funds or financial information to commit fraud. It’s important to educate yourself on the tactics scammers might use so you can spot and prevent a scam from happening if you’re ever an intended target.
Common types of scams
Scammers may try to steal your money or financial information in person or online. They may use manipulative communication methods to gain your trust create a sense of urgency in order to lure you into a fraudulent scheme. Online shopping and peer-to-peer payment platforms have created numerous opportunities for criminals to develop sophisticated scams to phish for shoppers’ financial information. Scams can also happen over the phone or in person.
- Online shopping scams: These scams involve fraudulent websites that misrepresent the products for sale or collect payment and never send you a product. If a website’s prices seem too good to be true, it may be run by scammers.
- Impersonation scams: A scammer may impersonate a social media personality, company or organization, or someone you know and ask you to send them money or personally identifiable information (PII) through a peer-to-peer payment platform (P2P), like PayPal. Be wary of these requests and verify the message’s legitimacy through a trusted contact channel (e.g. a trusted phone number or official company website). Scammers may also send unsolicited payment requests on P2P platforms, which you should ignore and report.
- Rental scams: In these types of scams, criminals create a fraudulent apartment listing, often at below-market prices in desirable neighborhoods, then ask potential “renters” to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first-month’s rent to secure the apartment.
Other common scams to look out for include IRS or tax scams, charitable donation scams, tech support scams, and more. You should also be wary when making purchases from sellers on platforms like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace.
Tips to prevent scams
Scammers are always finding new methods to commit fraud. If something seems suspicious or fishy, assume that it is until you can verify otherwise and use caution when communicating, browsing, or shopping online.
- Be wary of any unsolicited communications via email, phone, or social media asking you for money or information that would allow scammers to access your financial accounts.
- To protect yourself from online shopping scams, only shop on websites you trust and look for http:// and the “connection is secure” lock icon in the address bar of shopping websites.
- To avoid being a target of a rental scam, ask to view an apartment in person before sending any money to a potential landlord. If an apartment and its price seems too good to be true, keep in mind that it probably is.
- Never fulfill unsolicited peer-to-peer payment requests and double-check who you’re sending money to on these platforms by verifying your intended recipient’s username or email address.
- Be cautious and stay educated. Scammers continuously find new methods to scam victims. It’s helpful to educate yourself on new common scams, so you know what to look out for.