Six months into the coronavirus pandemic–and two months away from a contentious election–there hasn’t been a more uncertain time in recent American memory. Scammers thrive in uncertainty, and they’re not letting up as 2020 heats up.
To keep yourself, your information, and your bank account safe, we’ve rounded up some of the most recent frauds and scams you need to know about.
Last week, a massive explosion rocked the city of Beirut, Lebanon. Over a hundred people were killed, and many more injured, in the devastating blast. It’s only natural to want to help–but be wary of requests for donations.
Social media pleas and crowdfunding have become the norm for charity, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe. Links from social media could easily go to a scam site or simply funnel cash straight into a criminal’s pocket. You’re much better off giving money to reputable organizations with an established presence.
If you do decide to give money online, always use a credit card. They have stronger protections than other forms of payment, such as debit cards or money wires. In the event that you get ripped off, a credit card is easier to trace–and more likely to get your money back.
Have you heard of “deepfakes”? This digital trickery can fool anyone–even people who should absolutely know better. Using sophisticated computer tools, deepfakes can make realistic videos or audio recordings of people that you’d swear were the real thing.
Deepfakes usually target celebrities, but in 2019, scammers stole almost a quarter of a million dollars by faking the voice of an energy company CEO. Similar AI could easily be used to fake social media accounts of prominent people, create videos mimicking celebrity endorsements for products, or even fake the president’s voice in a message to the country.
The point of this warning is that you need to be more vigilant than ever about trusting information on the internet. Scammers have gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years, and lawmakers haven’t been able to keep up. If something seems too good to be true–or even just slightly suspicious–proceed with extreme cautions.
Online shoppers are encouraged to be skeptical of great deals online this month. Scammers are flooding social media and online advertising with deals that are just too good to pass up. Many of them are posing as trusted brands, but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice some red flags.
For one thing, if you click on an ad or an email link, keep an eye on your browser’s address bar. Many scammers rely on simple trickery. They direct you to, for example, gapkids.club instead of gapkids.com. The “.club” address is especially popular with suspicious websites registered in China.
Another warning sign? When prices are literally unbelievable. If you find yourself wondering how a company can possibly make money while charging so little, it means that their real business isn’t selling goods.
You might be tempted by an unbelievable bargain this month. Take a moment to vet the site before you enter any personal info–even an email address.