Scammers are constantly finding new ways to exploit current events and adapt well-known fraud schemes to create more convincing and effective scams. According to anti-fraud experts, most of these scams now originate through digital channels like social media or email.
Here are seven emerging scams that experts are tracking in 2023, along with tips on how to avoid them:
1. Student loan forgiveness scam:
Scammers build phony application sites aimed at stealing applicants’ Social Security numbers and bank information by offering a fake student loan forgiveness program. They sometimes contact targets by phone, pressuring them into applying and charging a fee for their help.
To stay safe, go to the Department of Education's student aid website to keep track of the proposed forgiveness program’s status.
2. Cryptocurrency-romance scam:
Fraudsters combine crypto scams with old-fashioned romance scams by posing as internet love interests. They lure targets into downloading an app and investing in fake crypto accounts.
To stay safe, carefully scrutinize any investment opportunity, even if you consider yourself a sophisticated investor.
3. Payday loan scam:
Scammers take advantage of inflation by offering fake payday loans that they claim will help people settle their bills. They ask loan applicants to prepay a fee, but the applicant receives nothing while the money goes into the crooks' pockets.
Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay any sort of loan fee with a gift card or some other non-traceable form of payment.
4. One-time password (OTP) bot scam:
Scammers use bots to trick people into sharing the two-factor authentication codes sent to them via text or email from financial institutions. The bot will make a robocall or send a text that appears to come from a bank, asking you to authorize a charge. It then asks you to enter the authentication code you’ve just been sent if the transaction isn’t yours.
Never share authentication codes, or provide other information, in response to an unsolicited phone call or text.
5. Free-gift QR code scam:
Scammers put fake codes over real ones to exploit the convenience of the barcodes people scan into their phones. They may call and say they're going to send a QR code to your phone, so you can receive a free $100 gift card. In reality, the QR code may take you to a malicious website.
To stay safe, if you receive a QR code out of the blue, contact the person or company that supposedly sent it to make sure it's real, and use a phone number you know is authentic.
6. Puppy purchase scam:
Scammers try to exploit dog lovers by offering cute puppies for sale on the web. Before searching online, go to an animal shelter and check out the dogs available there.
If you spot a puppy you like on a website, do a reverse image search to make sure it’s not a photo stolen from some other site. Insist on seeing the pet in person before paying any money.
7. Check washing scam:
Crooks steal checks from mailboxes and erase the original name and dollar amount by bathing them in household chemicals, leaving blank spaces they can fill in.
To avoid this scam, deposit your outgoing mail in blue collection boxes before the day's last pickup, avoid leaving mail in your mailbox overnight, and have your mail held by the post office or picked up by a friend or neighbor if you're going to be away.