Money Monday: Hack the Fraudsters with These Tips

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Written on every United States currency we find the words “In God We Trust.” When I said that to a friend of mine as I was purchasing an item from his store, he said to me; ”in God we trust” but everyone else must pay cash! His financial comfort felt safer with people paying cash than online transactions. In some ways I can connect with his story when, according to a 2023 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, consumers lost an estimated, $8.8 Billion in fraud scams and identity theft.

With the advent of artificial Intelligence (AI), the fight to protect your identity from scams and fraudsters has increased exponentially. Vulnerability is not limited to a specific demographic. While older people may be more challenged using technology and become susceptible, the rest of us face a more sinister problem as we conduct our everyday lives doing regular things.

Fraudsters and con artists now present themselves in familiar ways. They show up as your banks,  while online shopping, supposedly offering tax services, or social security transactions. Their strategy is packaged using three combined methods. First, they gain your trust. Second, they lead you into a heightened emotional state so that you no longer think rationally. As some say, they are “getting you under the ether.” The third piece to the puzzle is to create a sense of urgency.

Once they got you locked in with that combination, you are now ready to turn over your information and your money for fear of financial loss. Whether the scam presented is true or false, they have got you fearful and thinking irrationally which is really all that matters at the moment.

Losses and Profits

Depending on your perspective we could say that scammers made a profit of $8.8 Billion, or consumers lost the same amount as per the FTC report. The losses were diverse in their areas of concentration, which should provide some guidance as you seek to secure your own identity and sensitive information. The highest losses occurred through investment scams totaling $3.8 Billion. So if someone has a bridge to sell you, don’t jump off! The next highest losses occurred in the area of imposter scams totaling 2.6 Billion. All I can say is verify then trust and not trust but verify! Following imposter scams were consumer online shopping scams. The median amount of fraud or scam losses experienced was $650 with the most incidents occurring through credit cards.

Heads Up

How does one know that their identity has been stolen or that they have been a fraud victim?

Here’s a short list of notices:

  • Unexpected changes in your credit score. Using your credit card to pay off loans and other debt could cause changes in your score. However, they should be for the positive and not negative. This should not be surprising.
  • Unexplained loan denials. In this economy where you might be facing challenges some may consider loan consolidation as an option to reduce their debt and clean up their credit. However, if you are being denied loan applications without substantive explanations, it may be time to consider if you are a fraud victim.
  • Different name at your mailing address. If you are receiving mail at your address with a different name, it may be a postal mix-up, but if nobody with that name lives at your address it could also be a case of identity theft or fraud in which someone is using your information.

Fend off Scammers Proactively

We usually only take action after something hits us in the pocket. Here are some options to get on the front end of this problem.

  •  Avoid using public Wi-Fi.  We’ve all done it a some point in this global economy. Use a VPN ( Virtual Private Network) which can provide an encrypted link between you and the site you are using on the internet.
  • Check your credit reports periodically. When I say check them I mean all of them and not just the one with the highest credit score. Make it part of your things to do, or goals for this first quarter of 2024.

Fraud First Aid 

If fraud has been committed against you consider these options:

  • Firstly, put a credit freeze on your credit accounts.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report. If you alert one credit report agency, then you don’t need to alert the others. That’s how it is supposed to work. But I say unto you- call each agency and request a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • File a police report. A police report will help you as you make an insurance claim and as you communicate with credit bureaus.
  • Report to agencies as necessary including IRS, Health Insurance, Medicaid, Social Security Office, each peer-to -peer platform you use such as cash App, Zelle and others and  state and local tax offices to name a few.

 

That’s WHAT’S UP!

Today’s What’s Up is about February. February is the best month to purchase winter clothing. You should focus on perennial winter items. While styles and fashions come and go, you will always need gloves, boots, scarfs, and hats. Focus on what’s necessary. And that’s what’s up

Ruthven R. Phillip, Esq., is a tax attorney, Stewardship and Philanthropy Ministry Assistant, and CEO of Give2Getrich, LLC. Give2Get Rich, LLC 2024. All Rights Reserved. Any distribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited.

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