How to Protect Yourself from Scams

Jul 01, 2021

Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money – and unfortunately, they’re often successful.

They’re expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including the elderly, people who are down on their luck and even job seekers.

Anyone demanding odd forms of payment, pressuring you to “act now!” or demanding personal info up front is likely a scammer.

To help keep you safe, here are some ways to recognize and protect yourself from scams.

Five ways to spot a scammer

  1. They ask for detailed information before agreeing to process an application.
  2. They insist on a specific method of payment.
  3. They send a check for an inflated amount to a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to mail them the extra money. Of course, the original check will not clear.
  4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents.
  5. You’re pressured to act now.

Common Scams

These are some of the most common scams:

Cyberhacking. Hackers gain remote access to your computer and personal information.

Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information, which they use to hack your accounts or steal your identity.

Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase an item in a store and then report back on the experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.

Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.

Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online love interest will con you into sending them money and gifts or sharing personal information.

Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to victims with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

  1. Never share personal information online.
  2. Never send money to an unknown party, especially if they overpay and ask you to send back the difference.
  3. Don’t open emails from companies or people you don’t know. If you do, don’t click on any links or attachments in them.
  4. Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
  5. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication. And don’t reuse the same password – cyber criminals will attempt to use a password on multiple sites. Consider using password management software like LastPass or KeePass.
  6. Keep your software and apps updated. Use the most current operating systems and install system updates and patches to protect against malware and security holes that have been discovered.
  7. Be cautious of Public Wi-Fi. Avoid doing sensitive transactions like accessing your bank account or paying bills online on public Wi-Fi. Cyber criminals can intercept your information by creating fake wireless hotspots that seem real. 
  8. If you have elderly parents, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
  9. If a government agency or company calls and asks for personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own (e.g., use the customer service number listed on their website).
  10. Never accept a job or pay for a purchase or service without researching the company involved.

As a benefit of membership, Arizona Federal members have access to IDProtect™ for no-cost credit monitoring and identity theft resolution services. Learn more.

Your Turn: How do you keep yourself safe from scams? Share your best tips with us in the comments.