Chances are, either you or someone you know has been a victim of some sort of scam. Knowing how to protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to another case of fraud and finding those who attempt to hurt you or the ones you love is a useful skill.
Unfortunately, scammers are becoming more sophisticated and savvy. They are constantly finding new ways to target their victims via email, dating websites, texting, phone calls as well as other avenues of technology. Technology is always evolving, which makes it easier for scammers to find new ways to target their victims.
Scammers are often INTELLIGENT people who are consistently using new technology as well as current events to instill a certain emotion (such as fear) that causes their victims to respond. It has become a harder task to not only identify a scam but also (once the scam is identified) how to find a scammer.
Types of scams
There are SO MANY ways for scammers to get a hold of personal information.
For example, scammers can send fraudulent phishing emails to gather private information such as their victim’s password. Their tactic is to trick the receiver of the email into thinking that their account isn't protected and instill a sense of urgency to fix the issue.
More popular scam tactics:
Catfishing scammers trick lonely online daters into giving them money.
Phone scammers will text/call their potential victims and take advantage of their empathetic side by pretending to be from a charity organization that needs money.
There are many different types of scammers and if you are using any form of technology, you are at risk of being misled by one. That is why it is important to know how to locate a scammer.
Common scams to avoid
If you want to avoid being scammed and protect your loved ones from scammers, there are several different types of common scams that are made possible through technology that you will want to learn how to prevent.
These very common scams are:
Online dating scams
Fraudulent website scams
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these scams and I can teach you how to check a scammer.
Online dating scams
Many people who go online looking for love will end up being scammed because they are often in a vulnerable state of mind. It’s easy for scammers to create fake dating profiles on almost any dating website, “catfishers” simply have to steal someone else’s photo and (pretending to be someone that they aren’t, usually using a picture or multiple pictures of someone who is very attractive) get someone to fall in love with them and trust them.
Scammers will groom their victims using online dating websites as well as other forms of communication. An example would be communication on social media messaging services such as Facebook messaging, texting, emailing, etc.
There are plenty of scammers on Facebook and other social media avenues so please be aware of this if you start to connect with someone that you have met through a social networking website.
So how can you tell if the person you are talking to is a scammer? Once a scammer knows that they have the trust of their victim, they will begin to ask for help, usually by asking for financial assistance. In 2019, the FTC reported that Americans lost $201 million to romance scams, this number is almost double the amount of what was lost in 2018. And, with more people using the internet due to the COVID-19, the amount of money lost to romance scams in 2020 will probably be even higher.
|Consider this: The $201 million was the number reported in 2019 for money lost in romance scams, the amount of money lost is potentially much higher as not all scams get reported. |
How to catch an online dating scammer
If you or someone you know are dating online, it is actually important for an online dater to check any person they are communicating with.
A few simple tricks to catch a dating scammer:
Use their photo- Use their picture to perform an image search on Google to see if it is stolen from somewhere else.
Use Google's basic search engine feature- Look them up on Google to learn more about their true identity; if you are talking to a real person they should have some sort of digital trail.
Perform a reverse phone lookup- You can also perform a reverse phone lookup or people search by name lookup on a people search directory to try and find out more about them.
Look at their social media accounts- Try to locate their social media profiles; a reverse phone lookup or people search by name can also help you locate their social media profiles.
There are countless ways for a scammer to take someone’s money or personal information over the phone. Through texting and calling, scammers can and have gained access to credit cards, social security numbers, bank accounts numbers, and other personal information.
For example, scammers use a simple trick by acting that they are from the IRS when they give you a phone call to try and pretend to be an IRS agent. Of course, the IRS will NEVER call you before they have first sent you a letter in the mail; but not everyone knows that.
Simply looking up the phone number calling will more than likely prove the point that the IRS isn’t on the other line.
How to catch a phone scammer
There are a few easy ways to perform a scammer phone number lookup, some methods are more successful than others.
A few simple tricks to catch a phone scammer:
Perform a reverse phone lookup- The most successful way to lookup a phone number is to perform a reverse phone lookup to see if there is available information on the owner of the phone number such as their name and physical address.
Google phone lookup- Lookup the phone number on Google, sometimes people will report a phone number on scamming sites or the phone number may have been shared somewhere else online.
Know when to pick up the phone- Never answer the phone if it is an unfamiliar phone number. Once a scammer reaches you, they can mark your number as active. Instead, report any suspicious calls to the Federal Trade Commission here.
Gone are the days when the smartest email scammers use broken language in their emails and claim to be a Nigerian prince. Email scammers have gotten quite savvy, creating emails that can sometimes even trick the most tech-smart individuals.
For example, email scammers will mimic emails from popular websites to get their victims to provide their usernames and passwords to big sites such as Target. These emails are called phishing emails, and while some of them are legit (there are necessary reasons that you would need to change your password) others are clearly (or not so clearly) from scammers.
Phishing emails have gotten so popular that large websites such as Amazon have created an area where their customers can report spoofing emails (Amazon's can be found here ). These reports help big companies identify and catch a hacker that is trying to use their business as a way to steal from their clients.
How to catch an email scammer
You never want to fall victim to an email scam. These scams are (in my opinion) the easiest to fall victim to. It’s simple to make emails seem from a familiar sender and scammers don’t have to communicate using their voice via email. It's harder to know how to locate a hacker when they are sending you an email as there is almost nothing personal about emails.
Scammers from all over the world can simply use a well-constructed email and send it to thousands of people at once- making it easy to fool multiple people at an alarming rate. The success rate for phishing emails is quite astounding- in 2020 75% of companies in the United State fell victim to a successful phishing attack.
So how do you avoid becoming a victim of a phishing email scam?
A few simple tricks to catch an email scammer:
Look at the sender's email address- Instead of looking at the name of the sender, look at the email address that It’s sent from. Usually, scammers can change the name to anything they want to (such as from Amazon) but if you look at the email that It’s sent from if it’s a scam it won’t be from a website’s verified email address.
Validate the email address- If you’re not sure if the email address is a valid one, you can look up the email address on Google. If it is the company’s email address it should pop up on your Google search results under somewhere on the company’s website.
Report a scam- If you believe that the email address is a scam email, you could also report the email address to the FTC so that they can investigate.
Fraudulent website scams
Scammers trick people through online websites by pretending to be legitimate online retailers, either through setting up a fake retail website or creating ads on a real retail website. The most popular way that scammers do this is by setting up a website that is very appealing to the eye and then they claim to sell luxury brands at a highly discounted rate.
How to catch a fraudulent website scammer
If you see a deal that looks too good to be true on a website or an ad, you might want to follow your instinct.
A few simple tricks to catch a fraudulent website scammer:
Check the website's security- Look to see if the website is secure; all retail websites should be secure when requesting your credit card information.
Be picky about who you give your money to- To avoid being scammed, try to only purchase from well-known online retail websites or from online retailers that you personally know.
Use software- Use antivirus software to prevent unsafe websites to protect your computer.
Reach out to the FTC- Report fraudulent websites to the FTC so that other people aren't duped by fraudulent websites.
Dispute the charge- If you have been scammed by a fraudulent website, you can dispute the charge.
Knowing how to find a hacker is important, but since it is not a good idea to be in contact with a scammer (they could be dangerous or scam you while you are trying to identify them), being able to identify what is real and what is a scam and knowing how to report a scammer is the best way to catch a scammer. Not only in this situation are you aware of the danger that you are in (and can protect yourself) but by reporting the scammer to the FTC or business/person they are impersonating you can help put an end to their scamming ways (and they may even get in some sort of legal trouble).
My best advice is to try to avoid all contact with a scammer once you have established that they are unsafe. If you are busy trying to "capture" them, your scammer might attempt to get their hands on your money or harm you in some other way. This is the scammer's goal, and they probably aren’t scared of you.
If you do try to contact or continue to stay in contact with a scammer (I strongly advise you not to) DO NOT give them any personal information. They can use almost any personal information to learn more about you, be safe, and be smart.