It’s estimated that in the UK alone, 149,600 fraud offenses were reported between January and March 2016. This is a staggering amount, suggesting that almost 50,000 people are subjected to fraud every month in the UK. But the UK is not alone in its incidences of fraud. For example, approximately 10% of insurance claims in the in the USA and Canada are reportedly fraudulent.
Ronald Noble, founder of RKN Global, warns that although many of us like to think we’re fraud-savvy and can spot a scam a mile off, criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated in their methods as well. This means that even the most savvy of us needs to exercise care in order to avoid falling victim to fraud.
‘New’ types of fraud
A great deal of attention in recent years has focused on fraud and associated crime which takes place online. Most of us have internet access, and the online world—both the good and the bad of it– is usually a huge part of our lives. The trouble is that while a lot of us concentrate our efforts on the online world, while we often fail to spot crimes that are occurring ‘offline’.
Some of the newer types of fraud, both on- and off-line, that we all need to be on the lookout for include:
Jury duty fraud
Let’s imagine you get a call from your local court house telling you that you failed to turn up for jury duty. A call like this would no doubt make you feel uncomfortable, and you’re likely to want to protest your innocence and mention you know nothing about it. Scammers want you to feel bad about it to make you more willing and receptive to do whatever they suggest, including handing over your social security number and other personal details.
While this may seem like a legitimate thing to do in order for you to avoid the arrest warrant that the court has out in your name, you should stop and think. Would your local court really call you up and ask for your personal details? Would they really discuss this issue over the telephone? The answer is: No, they wouldn’t. If you’re unsure as to whether the court is really calling you, call them back from another phone, or visit the court and ask them. Don’t forget to let the police know, as they will be interested in arresting the caller rather than you.
Career opportunity scams
As the job market becomes harder and harder to enter, fraudsters use the situation to their advantage. Many people who look for work online could find themselves falling victim to a scam. A legitimate jobs site will display the jobs in question, ask you to register should you wish to apply, and then give you updates about the position you have applied for. However, many people are now finding that they’re being offered a consultation that would help to launch their career. Unfortunately, this ‘consultation’ comes with a price, and it’s one that job seekers are asked to pay upfront. In reality, no legitimate job site or company will ask for payment upfront. Legitimate sites and companies also follow through with their promises to help you find work. Fraudulent ones, by contrast, will simply take your cash and disappear.
Greetings card scams
The holiday season is fast approaching, which means that fraudsters are looking forward to having a field day. This time of year can produce substantial results for those who are happy to take your cash. Over the holiday season, you may get a few emails stating that your friend or relative has sent you an e-card. In the past, these fraudulent emails were quite easy to spot, but they are getting more and more sophisticated. Gone are the days when you would receive a plain-looking email that contained a couple of links that inevitably lead to some sort of phishing site. These days the e-card sites are more sophisticated, and a lot more convincing. With flashy designs, seasons greetings a-plenty, and a promise that you can send your own e-card, this type of fraud is one you need to be on the lookout for.
How to protect yourself from fraud
Knowing how to protect yourself from fraud can make a difference to your bank account balance and to the security of your personal information. Falling victim to fraud comes in many shapes and sizes; it can be as simple as clicking on the wrong link, or applying for a job that looks appealing. The good news is there are steps you can take to protect yourself from falling a victim to fraud.
Don’t give out your personal information
One of the best ways you can protect yourself is to avoid giving out your personal information. Fraudsters want to know your full name, address, date of birth, telephone number, and social security number. If you’re asked to give some or all of these details out, find out if the organization asking is a real one and has a legitimate reason for asking.
Update your anti-virus protection
Ensure that the anti-virus software your computer uses is completely up to date. Take a look at your browser settings, and set it to the highest level of security you can.
Don’t click on links that look suspicious
Let’s say you’ve received an email about the latest grumpy-looking cat video, and you’re tempted to click on it. Stop, think about who has sent you the email, if the email looks legitimate, and if you’re willing to open yourself up to phishing and fraud. You might even get an email from your bank, claiming that you need to verify your log in details. In reality, banks will never send you an email regarding your log in details, so please do not ever click on any such link. If the email looks genuine, or you’re simply not sure if it is, close the email and look for your banks legitimate contact details, or even visit the branch to speak to someone. Chances are you were sent a fraudulent email.
What to do if you think you’re a victim of fraud
If you think you’ve become a victim of fraud, don’t fall prey to embarrassment– you are not alone. There are many organizations out there that can help you. If you have fallen victim to fraud, one of the first steps you need to take is to contact your bank or your credit card company. Describe what happened, when you think it happened, and how much the fraudsters may have taken.
Gather together any letters you’ve received, and print up emails too. These could be vital in terms of the investigation. Talk to the police, talk to any fraud prevention service the police have referred you to, and try not to take it personally. Fraudsters will target who they can, when they can, without caring about the trail of devastation they’re leaving behind.
Ronald Noble, RKN Global’s founder, notes that the feeling of embarrassment on the part of the victim benefits criminals by keeping us from reporting fraud in which we have been victimized. It is important to report fraud and not pay heed to our natural feelings of embarrassment, which we share with everyone else.
Will I get my money back?
It’s estimated that British victims of fraud can lose an average of £20,000 per person. One scam in particular, the Nigerian 419 scam, caused losses of $12.7 billion in the USA, UK, and India in 2013. Most people do not get their money back. Some banks will set a limit, like a deductible, that determines how much money you need to lose before you can get any of it back. If money is taken from your credit card account, you may be able to get most or all of it back.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble highlights that fraud takes advantage of our weaknesses: our fears, our worries, our ambitions, our exhaustion. It is not reasonable, possible or even desirable to rid ourselves of these attributes. Instead, we must be aware of them and the possibility that we will be targeted by those aiming to profit at our expense. In short: be smart, be safe, and treat every transaction you make and every email you read with caution.