With the explosion of online commerce during and after the pandemic, online scams have also seen a meteoric rise in popularity, unfortunately.  Some of them are old-school which you may be familiar with, and smart enough to avoid.  But some of the newer scams are darned clever and (even for a seasoned cynic like me) hard to resist.  I mean, if it looks like it comes from your bank, why wouldn’t you respond, right? 

We don’t want you to be a victim, so we’ve done some research for you and came up with this updated list you should have on your radar.  

Smartphone scams 

This is the latest and greatest version that hackers are beginning to use quite effectively.  I know I have personally seen these start to pop up on my phone, and I was glad I knew the following tips to stay safe. 

*TEXT MESSAGES: never, ever click on a link in a text message that has been sent to you from a number you do not know.  It may include a link to a scammer’s website or app, which can then steal your personal information – (all from the convenience of your phone!). 

*APPS: did you know that there are apps that can steal your personal information?  It’s also possible for a scammer to create a nearly identical copy of an app, and then steal money when you make in-app purchases, and you wouldn’t even know it.  Bottom line: only download and use apps you know and trust.  

*QR codes: after experiencing a lull in popularity a few years ago, QR codes are back! I have seen more businesses using QR codes to encourage customers to access anything from menus to virtual business cards to paying your tab.  That’s all fine and dandy, but be aware that QR codes can take you to bogus websites created to steal your personal information.  Want an example?  The City of Austin released a warning this summer about some clever scammers who slapped fake stickers on the city’s parking meters.  Yikes!   

https://www.austintexas.gov/news/fraudulent-qr-codes-found-austin-parking-pay-stations

Online scams 

Good old fashioned online scams are still alive and well, so watch out!  I get messages from my bank and credit card companies every so often reminding me that no one legitimately from the company will ever email me asking for my personal information.  A good rule of thumb is to NEVER share your personal information (Social Security Number, account numbers, or login information) over email, no matter who is asking for it. 

*DATING SCAMS: it’s sad but true, cyber criminals will use your emotions to get you to send money or goods, and then disappear.  This is a tough one because there are also good, honest people out there looking for true relationships.  If your true love asks you to send them money, however, you should probably smell a rat.  I always advise clients is to trust your gut.  If something seems weird, check your emotions and step back.  Maybe ask the opinion of a trusted friend or advisor for another perspective.  

*FAKE PURCHASE SCAMS: see something really cute on social media or marketplace websites?  Just make sure it’s a legitimate business you are buying from, not a scammer.  One clue is the options that are offered at checkout.  If you don’t see a trusted third-party option (like PayPal or Stripe), be suspicious. 

*CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAMS: this is another area where imitation websites can be created that seem like the real thing, but are really just vehicles to steal your personal information.  Scam techniques also include fake prizes, giveaways, or “investment opportunities.”  If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably best to check it out.  Or better yet, simply avoid it and move on. 

Do you have a personal story with cyber scams?  I hope not, but if you do, I encourage you to share your experience with others.  Drop me an email or tell your neighbor!  Another good way of outsmarting these criminals is awareness.  So the more you can help make others aware of the scams that are out there, the more we can prevent our loved ones from falling victim. 

I hope this has helped you!  Please feel free to share with someone you know who may benefit from this information.