Financial spams are all over the place. You may encounter them on the Internet, but they also may come your way in the mail, text messages or even knocking on your door. That is why it is important to always keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t seem and feel right.
Although each type of financial scams has its own hallmarks, they all share some of the main features. That is perhaps why you may feel that something isn’t right for no logical reason. The more you can identify the common characteristic of a scam, the easier you will be able to make a decision to steer away from it – despite the temptation that may come with it.
Where to start? Here are few points to keep in mind.
Scammers typically wouldn’t know much about you – even though they may try to convince you that they do. For example, a scammer approaching you via e-mail may try to get your name from your e-mail address. A scammer who is contacting you through Facebook or other social networking sites may try to find out more about you through your current status. But typically if you prolong the discussion with the suspicious contact, it will become very clear that they hardly know you. For example, if a friend contacts you through Facebook, repeats what you have in your status (with a spin) and then ask you to wire money to some unusual destination, this is probably a hacker. It is not always that straightforward but, it is a good sign of something that isn’t right.
A more complex scam is one that is a combination of your public information and an anonymous sender. For example, if you receive an e-mail or a letter that addresses you personally, seems to know something about you like you’ve bought a new house, been to a particular hotel, then gives you a tempting offer, you still should think twice before responding. Look through the contact information, see if a physical address is included and a phone. If the sender appears to be anonymous, try to look up this contact information to make sure they are accurate. Many times a little bit of research will show that the sender’s claimed entity and identity are fake.
If you think that you’re so lucky that you will get a free vacation, a new car or a million dirhams without even asking for any of that, you may need to think again. Don’t give up hope that one day a financial miracle can turn your life around. But you should also be realistic. If you look at many of the actual lotteries, raffles, etc., they are participation-based. So if you get a big “free” gift that you’ve not asked for, scrutinize the source and make sure you’re not walking into a scammer’s trap.
Scammers typically play up a sense of urgency to muffle your best judgment. Many scams will set a short time frame or ask you to act immediately. Expect statements such as: “you need to claim your prize before …” a certain day. Rushing to even make a phone without a thorough investigation of whom you’re call and for what, may get you in trouble. Many scammers may not be immediately after your money, the purpose may be to steal your identity. With that in mind, be extremely cautious if this scenario involves someone asking you to provide personal details (name, birthdate, ID number etc.), or financial information, (bank account details, for instance).
Also many scammers create a fake emergency where, for example, they are inaccessible because of a death in the family, sick relative, etc. These emergencies again are part of their larger scheme that is trying to get you off your typical path of thinking. So whenever you come across such an attempt, take a couple of steps back and ask yourself why.
Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a Seattle-based editor.