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Recognizing a Scam
Recognizing a Scam
Are you able to spot the signs of a scam when you see them?
Scammers are creative, coming up with new and more effective ways to trick you into handing over money or personal information. Arming yourself with knowledge about their current tactics is the best way to make sure you don’t get scammed.
Most scams have common characteristics. By equipping yourself with the tools to recognize a scam, you can be alert to their key features and avoid becoming a victim.
SIGNS IT’S A SCAM - You are:
- Contacted out of the blue with an urgent request.
- Pressured to act or respond immediately
- Offered something that sounds suspicious:
- Winnings from contests you have never entered
- Prizes you must pay to receive
- Inheritance from alleged long-lost relatives
- Urged to keep the call secret.
- Asked to provide personal or financial information.
- Requested or demanded to:
- Update your account information
- Provide financial information
- Confirm your identity and who you are
- Asked for money.
- Asked for payment in an unusual form:
- Wire transfer (Western Union or MoneyGram)
- Prepaid debit cards, gift cards, or store cards - with a request to read the numbers on the card
- Pay Apps (Venmo, Zell, Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal, etc.)
- Told to go to your financial institution to withdraw money and instructed to put your phone in your pocket while they remain on the line. They may also instruct you on what to say to the staff at your financial institution.
- Told you have won or inherited a large sum of money, then instructed to pay an up-front fee to collect on the windfall. They claim the fee is to cover the cost of processing or shipping or to pay taxes on the winnings.
- Given vague information regarding the purpose of the call and/or caller is reluctant to answer questions about the business or their offer.
- Threatened if you don’t comply.
- Promised something too good to be true.
Signs it's an email or text scam
- Unexpected emails or texts from someone you don’t know.
- Attached receipts for items you didn’t purchase.
- Updates on deliveries for things you did not order.
- Suspicious sender email address – attempting to look like an official email domain or company name.
- Links that don’t go to official websites or to unsecured websites.
- Spelling or grammatical errors that a legitimate organization would not miss.
- Suspicious attachments or links:
- Attachments you didn’t ask for
- Weird file names
- Uncommon file types
- See ‘Signs It’s a Scam’ above.
Examples of scams calls:
- Tech support claiming they detected a virus on your computer or other digital devices.
- A government employee or agency (IRS, SSA, Medicaid, Immigration Office). Government agencies will not contact you by phone and they will NOT ask for personal or financial information. They will not make threats and will not demand money.
- A utility company claiming you did not make a payment or threatening to shut off service for any reason.
- A grandchild or family member who needs money immediately for an emergency.
- A debt collector who makes threats and demands immediate payment without anything in writing.
Their goal is to gain your trust, appeal to your emotions, create a sense of urgency, force their own verification procedures on you, and request money in an unusual payment form.
What you can do
- Block unwanted calls and text messages. Do NOT provide personal or financial information in response to a request that you did not 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 given to you by the caller or the number from your caller ID.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to decide. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.
- Recognize how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. 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. It can also make others aware of the scam - helping them to avoid it.
Recognizing the common traits of a scam will help you avoid falling for one. For more information, visit the Michigan Department of Attorney General's website for frequent alerts on various scams.
Reporting scams to our office helps us alert Michigan consumers on the newest and latest scams.