February 1, 2024

CyberSecurity Source | Winter 2024

3 Scams to Watch Out for in 2024

One reason scammers are so difficult to stop, experts say, is they keep raising their game. They’re continually perfecting their scams, taking advantage of new technology and honing their methods to better manipulate their targets.

Scammers have become much better at impersonating legitimate institutions over the years, including creating websites and messages that are “carbon copies” of legitimate health care providers, businesses, and banks, with fewer grammatical mistakes and other red flags.

Scams experts say you should be watching for this year:

Check Cooking Scam

What to look for:

Last year, the big scam to watch for was check washing, where thieves stole paper checks from postal boxes, mailboxes or even carriers, and then washed the checks with chemicals, keeping the signature but erasing the amount and the payee so they could fill in a new name and amount. But now, they’ve discovered a less messy way to steal. In check cooking, thieves take a digital picture of a stolen check and then use commercially available software to alter it.

How to stay safe:

Consider using a safer payment method, such as a debit or credit card. If you choose to write paper checks, scammers still need to steal a physical copy. Instead of putting the check in a mailbox, drop it off directly at the nearest post office. As always, continually monitor your checking account and watch for any suspicious transactions.

Voiceprint Scams

What to look for:

Thanks to technological advances, it’s possible for thieves to capture a recording of your voice and then use a software program to generate an imitation “deepfake” version that can be used to impersonate you.

How to stay safe:

The best way to prevent your voice from being duplicated is simply not answering the phone unless you know the person calling. More than likely, if somebody needs to get ahold of you, they can text you or contact you in a different way.

Delayed-Action Sweepstakes Scam

What to look for:

Sweepstakes scammers, who call or write to say that you’ve won a fortune, have been around for ages. Recently, however, they’ve come up with a new variation on the old formula. Instead of trying to get you to pay taxes or other fees in advance to collect the nonexistent prize, the scammers will ask for personal information so that they can validate you and set up the payout. They’ll write small checks on your account to see whether you notice the fraudulent activity. If you don't, they'll continue to use the account to obtain credit cards and lines of credit in your name to siphon off, giving them a potentially bigger payday down the road.

How to stay safe:

As with previous variations of the sweepstakes scam, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you get a call from someone claiming you’ve won a huge prize, the safest bet is to just hang up. Remember, never provide any personal information.

Looking for identity theft protection?

Beware of Facebook Marketplace Scams

Whether you’re looking for a washing machine or a gently used couch, like many people, you may search on Facebook Marketplace to score a good deal. While Facebook Marketplace is a good place to find just about anything you might be looking to buy, the site’s popularity also attracts criminals who use a variety of scams to steal shoppers’ money, including selling items they never actually send.

Sellers, too, are often targeted by scammers, some of whom may be trying to get their personal information, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned. The bureau explained criminals have been asking sellers for their phone numbers to text them a verification code — part of a process they can use to commit identity theft.

While Facebook takes what it describes as “proactive measures” to protect shoppers and sellers on the platform, the risk for scams remains an ongoing concern.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of steps you can take to avoid scammers and protect yourself while browsing!

Tips for Buyers

Research before you buy.

A Meta spokesperson recommends reviewing a seller’s business profile, along with product reviews and ratings.

Beware of bargains that seem too good to be true.

As Facebook’s website notes, “scammers may try to use underpriced items to lure buyers into a scam.”

Avoid communicating with buyers privately outside of Facebook and Messenger.

Having a record of your conversations will be helpful in case there is a problem with the purchase or payment later, the Meta spokesperson recommends.

Be wary of sellers who want you to use a difficult-to-trace payment method.

We promise no legitimate seller is going to ask to be paid in gift cards for their 2008 Toyota Corolla.

Watch out for fake email notifications.

Be wary of emails telling you there was something wrong with your payment through checkout on Facebook. Instead, view your payment history on Facebook, which can be found in your settings.

Tips for Sellers

Avoid communicating with buyers privately outside of Facebook and Messenger.

The same advice for buyers is also crucial for sellers. Having a record of your conversations is important, should a problem arise.

Be on the lookout for fake buyers.

Cybersecurity firm Reason Labs recommends looking at a prospective buyer’s Facebook profile. If the person has posted only limited information and doesn’t have a profile picture, that’s reason for caution.

Watch out for pressure tactics.

Reason Labs also advises to be wary of buyers who press you to do an immediate transaction or to rush the process. This is a red flag that they might be up to something shady.

Be wary of buyers who want to pay with a personal check.

Don’t run the risk of receiving a fake check; ask to use a different payment method.

After using the tips above to verify the seller or buyer is legitimate, remember to always be cautious when you meet someone to do a transaction. Arrange to meet in a public place, like a local police station that likely has specific parking areas set aside for online selling.