Five ways to avoid being scammed

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As long as there have been humans on this earth, working hard to make an honest living, there have been lurkers trying to scam them.

So prevalent have these scams become, that local law enforcement offices have teamed up with credit union representatives to create a fraud squad. You can find all their tips and an updated scroll of frauds on their website, https://fraudsquad.com/.

Technological advancements have ushered in a new wave of scams, but fraudsters have been around for well over two thousand years.

The earliest recorded case of fraud happened in 300 BC when a Greek sea merchant, Hegestratos, took out an insurance policy, known as a bottomry, using his ship and cargo as collateral. Hegestratos got caught attempting to sink his own ship in an effort to keep the borrowed funds, and he drowned attempting to escape.

Since the Greek merchant’s failed attempt to scam funds, shady humans have only intensified their efforts, capitalizing on increasingly sophisticated technology and consumers’ happy reliance on it.

The scams may evolve along with the days’ headlines, but you can still protect yourself by taking basic safety measures.

  1. Be very leery of conversations you have not initiated. Scammers often have access to software that can spoof calls and emails to make them appear to be coming from legitimate sources, including government agencies, charities, banks, relatives and large companies. Never share personal information, including usernames, passwords, contact information, Social Security numbers, or one-time codes that people can use to access your accounts or steal your identity. No government agency will contact you by phone or email to request money from you.
  2. Enable multifactor authentication. Even if it takes you a little longer to log into your account, and means one more passcode to remember, this extra step is worth it to protect both your identity and your accounts.
  3. Research charities before you donate and do not allow yourself to be pressured into giving money until you can gather the information you need. If someone contacts you and tries to get you to donate funds on the spot, hang up and block the caller. We run companies through CharityNavigator before we donate anything.
  4. Do not answer unsolicited calls on your cellphone unless you are familiar with the caller. If you do answer a call or text, limit your response until you are sure you know who you are speaking to. The best thing to do if you think you are being targeted is simply hang up and block the number. Avoid clicking on any links sent in texts unless you are absolutely sure you know where it will take you.
  5. Use a credit card when you shop online because it has built in protection. Do not use a wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrency or gift cards. These payments can be harder to track and cancel than other forms of payment, which can leave you stuck without recourse. Also, look for websites that begin with https: (not http:) and have a lock symbol in their browser bar.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, don’t panic. Your bank and credit card companies will help you freeze your accounts. Report suspected fraud to your local police department and notify your financial advisor, who can help make sure your investment accounts stay safe. It is important to act quickly if you think you may have been a financial crime victim.