According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reports of identity theft and fraud nearly doubled between January 2020 and January 2021. One reason why it’s so difficult to foil fraudsters is because they use a variety of techniques. The same scammer can target large companies as well as individuals, reaching out by text, phone, and email, increasing the odds of a successful swindle.
So the chances are high that you’ll be targeted for a fraud scam at some point in 2022. But if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to outsmart the fraudsters. To help, let’s take a deeper dive into the three most common scams happening now, and how you can avoid falling victim.
According to the FTC, reports of cyber scams rose more than 200% between 2020 and 2021. Phishing is one of the most common tactics used by cyber scammers. Under this strategy, the scammer will send out fraudulent emails (phishing), voicemails (vishing), or SMS text messages (smishing) attempting to steal personal information. The scammer usually claims to represent a bank, government agency, or credit card company, asking the recipient to confirm personal details like their Social Security Number, bank account information, or password(s). With this information, they can take out a loan or open new credit cards in the victim’s name.
There are several clues that indicate a message could be phishing:
- The message claims that you must respond the same day or else your benefits/account will be suspended.
- The message includes multiple grammar or spelling errors.
- The email address or phone number from which the message was sent is not affiliated with the company it claims to represent.
- The message asks you to confirm your personal information over text or email– legitimate organizations will never ask you to do this.
- You do not do business with or have not been in contact with the organization previously.
The best thing to do is to ignore these emails, voice mails, or texts. If the messages claim to represent a bank or business you have an account with, call their customer service department directly to see if they have been trying to contact you. If there are any hyperlinks or attachments in the messages, do not open them. This could expose you to a computer virus or to ransomware. Delete the message — and any attachments — immediately.
2.) Data Breaches
In 2021, data breaches were reported by companies like Neiman Marcus and Anthem Blue Cross, and this trend will almost certainly continue in 2022. A data breach occurs when sensitive or confidential information such as passwords, emails, Social Security Numbers, or phone numbers are stolen. These incidents usually occur on a larger scale — for example, a hacker steals personal information of customers from a company’s database — and can lead to the theft of thousands of identities.
Unfortunately, data breaches can occur even within the most trustworthy organizations, but there are ways you can protect yourself from identity theft after a data breach.
3.) Benefits Fraud
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States’ unemployment rate peaked at nearly 15% in February 2020, and two years later millions of Americans are still trying to access their unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, scammers are ready and waiting to defraud them. Many times, scammers will send an email or text posing as the State Workforce Agency and ask the recipient to confirm their personal details in order to retain their unemployment benefits. If you receive a message like this, it’s almost certainly a scam, since a legitimate government organization will never ask you to confirm personal details over email or text.
Fraudsters have also been hard at work creating fraudulent unemployment benefit websites. When unemployed workers apply for benefits online, they often don’t think twice about submitting their personal information, but you should always be vigilant. Scammers can use these personal details to steal your identity, damage your credit report, or even apply for unemployment benefits in your name. If the website address begins with “https://,” you know that it’s secure. Additionally, when applying for government assistance, always go through government-sanctioned websites like IRS.gov or DOL.gov. Federal government website addresses will almost always end in .gov or .mil.
As you navigate 2022, it may get increasingly difficult to safeguard your identity. Fortunately, AAA Identity Champion can help. Click here for more information on how Identity Champion offers extra protection like dark web and social media monitoring and how, if the worst should happen, they can even help restore your stolen identity.