Scams and How to Avoid Them

August 29, 2022

Categories: Checking Accounts, Credit Cards, Debit Card, Education, Financial Planning, Financial Wellness, Financials 101, Protecting Your Accounts, Safety & Security, Savings Accounts

By Shawn Gaffney

They seem genuine. They appear to know a lot about you. They are the scammers. Scammers are an unfortunate reality in today’s world. It is increasingly important to protect yourself against those who use deceit to separate individuals from their money, property, or identity.

What are the signs of a scammer and how can you avoid being a statistic?  Here are some tips to help you be informed.

Common Signs of a Scam (Adapted from the Federal Trade Commission (

1. Scammers PRETEND to be from a well-known organization.

A common tactic for scammers is to pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use legitimate agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, financial institution, or even a charity asking for donations.

They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. Therefore, the name and number you see might not be real.

2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

A scare tactic they may use is to tell you that you are in trouble with the government, and you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but must pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up. This tactic is used so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted. Or that fraudulent accounts have been setup in multiple locations and they need access to your accounts in order to “fix it.”

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company (i.e. CASH APP, Venmo, Zelle, etc.) or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.

Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

How to Avoid a Scam

Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service (Venmo, CASH APP, Zelle, etc.). And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

Protecting your accounts is a top priority at The Summit. Click here for more resources, advice and information.

Shawn Gaffney is the Fraud Prevention Supervisor at The Summit Federal Credit Union.