With spooky season coming to an end, the last thing the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) wants is for consumers to get tricked into falling for a fraudster. Since January 1, 2020, 504 scams have been reported to SCDCA. 54 of the scams reported resulted in consumers giving over their hard-earned cash, totaling $642,933 actual money lost. While there is no possible way to identify every scam out there, the red flags of scams are often the same. To save yourself from being the victim of a ghastly scam, here are some common red flags to look out for:
The contact comes out-of-the-blue. Whether it’s an email, phone call, text message, direct message over social media or even a knock on your door, if the contact shows up out of nowhere, run! Cold contacts like this should tip you off that the person reaching out isn’t who they say they are.
Asks you to verify or give over personal identifying information. Scammers love cash but your private information is just as valuable. This includes information like your full name, date of birth, Social Security number (even just the last four digits), benefits information, etc. This approach is common with fake shipping notifications, delivery and tech scams.
Asks you to pay in prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire or bank transfer. Prepaid debit and gift cards are used like cash. Once in the hands of a fraudster, the money is gone and nearly impossible to trace. Same goes for a wire or bank transfer.
Government officials or law enforcement starts calling. A common ruse is to act like an official to either gain your trust or scare you into giving over money and/or information. Common scare tactics are calls from “law enforcement officers” claiming there is a warrant out for your arrest or the Social Security Administration calls saying your information has been compromised. If you have any doubt about who is on the other end, hang up and find a legitimate phone number by searching the phone book or government website.
Makes you think their offer is time sensitive. Scammers are trying to get you to act fast before you have a chance to realize that their offer is fake. They will tell you have to act now, or you won’t get this incredible deal. Best thing to do is hang up or delete the message.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If an opportunity or product presents itself and it seems too good to be true, that is a huge red flag of a scam. Beware of deeply discounted prices online or offers of free vacations or lottery winnings for a lottery you never entered. Always do research by looking at reviews and checking other retailers for price comparisons. Selling something? Be wary of a scammer sending you a check for more than they owe, asking you to deposit it and return the extra cash.
Download Ditch the Pitch, SCDCA’s guide to guarding against scams for more ways to keep yourself safe. To report a scam, call our Identity Theft Unit at 1(844) TELL DCA (835-5322) or visit consumer.sc.gov and click the Identity Theft Unit tab.