7 Signs You're Being ScammedIf you’ve been on the receiving end of calls or messages from scammers, you probably know what people mean when they describe scams as being baffling, irritating or even frightening. Worst of all, scams can get tricky. According to the Federal Trade Commission, impostor scams topped the list of top frauds in 2017, with almost 350,000 reports of impostor scams and consumers losing a total of $328 million because of them. Because scams are a huge detriment, it’s good to know how to recognize them. We’ve covered various types of scams that you could encounter, including delivery scams, robocalls, phishing, dating scams, travel scams and more. What can you do to protect yourself from falling victim to a scam? Are there signs you should look for? Simply put, yes, there are seven signs you should look for to determine if you’re being scammed. Continue reading to learn about these signs and find out what you can do if you spot any of them.

Signs you’re dealing with a scammer

You receive unsolicited offers that sound too good to be true

If someone makes an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true, such as an on-the-spot job offer, out-of-the-blue tech repairs or a free trip to Vegas, be wary. Scammers know that people love free things – to the point that people may be blinded to traps when trying to obtain them. As such, if you receive enticing, unsolicited and free offers out of the blue, make sure to think critically and do your own research to learn more about the offer before agreeing to anything or paying money. If you don’t, you may get scammed.

You’re asked for personally identifiable information

If the email, letter, social media message or caller is asking for personal information or identifiers (e.g., your bank account information, social security number, payment card details, birth date, insurance details and more), it might be a scam. Personal information is something you shouldn’t be freely sharing, so if you receive a call or message asking for it, exercise great caution. That said, if you think the message or call might not be spam, don’t respond to the initial message, call or text. Instead, contact a legitimate source using a trusted phone number or email to verify the authenticity of it. For example, if you receive a letter asking you for your bank account’s information and it sounds like your bank is alerting you of potential fraud, contact your bank via the number on the back of your debit card to see if your bank actually sent you that letter before providing any information.

Asking for money (especially via non-traditional payment methods)

If an unknown, unsolicited contact is asking for money, be it for an advance payment or some other sort of fee for something, it could be a scam. Scammers like to pull this trick to get you to hand them money, something that’s unfortunately been demonstrated through charity scams that take advantage of generous donors after natural disasters.

Be especially wary if you’re being asked to provide the payment by wiring money, putting money on a gift card or cash reload card, paying with a prepaid card or through other non-traditional, unusual means. Scammers ask you to pay through these means because these payment methods are more untraceable and allow scammers to get your money more quickly.

You’re asked to make transactions

You should also be wary if you’re asked to assist with depositing money or making other monetary transactions. These are often attempts to either steal money from you or involve you in a crime, like a money laundering scheme. Often this takes the form of a fraudulent job posting, so be wary if you’re in contact with potential employers who are asking you to make monetary transactions straight away as a part of your duties as a new hire.

You’re being pressured or rushed

Another tactic that scammers use is to make threats or pressure you into making a decision. They may do this by conveying a sense of urgency – perhaps by setting a deadline and making it seem as if you must do X right away or Y will happen. Take virtual kidnapping scams, for example. You must pay money (X) or your “kidnapped” daughter or grandchild will suffer (Y). It may be hard to do so, but if you notice that you’re being pressured into doing something, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the situation – no matter how dire the situation may sound. That’s because doing more research to validate a message’s legitimacy can’t hurt. For instance, in the hypothetical fake kidnapping scam mentioned above, if you expected your daughter to be at school at the time you received the call, you could contact your daughter’s school to check if she’s safe. If you’re dealing with someone claiming to represent a business or the federal government, remember that legitimate businesses and agencies won’t usually pressure you into making a decision or threaten something like jail time if you fail to make an immediate decision.

There are grammatical and spelling errors

If you receive a letter or email and it sports many grammatical and spelling errors, your scam radar should be on alert. That’s because these could be signs that the message isn’t coming from a benign source or the business you think it’s coming from. One notable example of a scam that exhibits this? The Nigerian scam, which is known to send messages with obvious grammatical errors. Some claim that scammers make those errors on purpose to separate potential, gullible targets from those who may not fall for these types of schemes as easily, allowing the scammers to identify possible targets.

You notice questionable email domains or email addresses

Before you open an email, make sure to check the email domain and email address of the sender. If the email’s subject line makes it sound like a business email, but the domain or email address of the sender looks off (e.g., it doesn’t look genuine, it’s misspelled or it features a domain provided through a free email address, but the message looks like it’s from a business), it may be better to not open the email. Legitimate businesses often try to use legitimate-looking domains and email addresses connected to their names (e.g., NextAdvisor uses contact@nextadvisor.com), whereas scammers may use domains that look untrustworthy or less credible (e.g., nextadvisor@gmail.com).

What to do when you recognize signs of scams

The good news is that if you suspect you’re being scammed, there are several steps you can take to prevent yourself from getting into hot water, including …

Don’t provide money or personal information in response to unsolicited calls or messages

It may go without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing that it’s important to not hand over money or personal information to a stranger or someone claiming to be representing a business you know. Even if the contact on the other end sounds convincing, trust your gut and halt interactions with them.

Deny their request for access to your financials

Tread carefully when someone asks for information that could give them access to your bank accounts, payment cards, investment accounts and anything else you don’t want unauthorized figures to get access to. Though this piece of advice may seem obvious and common sense, scammers can be persuasive, and they may try to get access to these accounts and payment cards. As such, make sure you don’t become a victim of a scam by fulfilling account- or card-related requests.

Don’t click on any links or attachments in unfamiliar messages

Make sure to not access anything in unfamiliar messages, such as links and attachments. If you do, you may find yourself accidentally downloading malware onto your computer, or you could be taken to a fake website – something that’s happened in a number of scams, including cryptocurrency scams.

Limit what you post on social media

Being careful about what you post on social media can also be helpful when it comes to protecting you from scams. That’s because scammers are turning to the Internet to conduct research on you, obtaining information that could be used to fool you. For example, ABC News reported that King County Sheriff’s Office believed scammers were researching victims on social media to carry out a fake kidnapping scam — known as social engineering, this is something most scammers do. For these reasons, be careful about what you’re posting and sharing online, and who you’re sharing this information with. To learn more about good social media practices, take a look at our post about how to avoid oversharing on social media.

Do your research and trust your gut

If you’re not sure if something is a scam or not, it doesn’t hurt to do more outside research before making any decisions. Again, legitimate entities won’t rush you to make decisions, so you can take your time to do your research before responding to a request. It’s also important to trust your gut, so even if a situation doesn’t incorporate all the signs of scams mentioned in this post (after all, there are many different scams, and some scammers can replicate a company’s details down to a T), don’t be afraid to trust your instincts if something seems off.

Now that you can better identify red flags that could indicate if something’s a scam, learn more about different types of scams and how you can better protect yourself from them. To get started, check out the posts in our privacy blog.