By Blake Schnitker
Perhaps the most obvious and unavoidable fact of life as we continue further into the third decade of the 21st century is that we live in an increasingly global, highly complex, constantly-communicating world that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Having turned 30 this year, I feel as though I proudly belong to a unique age group in our current world, as people around my age will likely be the last surviving individuals with the ability to recall what life was like prior to the internet. Yes, you heard that right young people … there was in fact a time – a prehistoric era in which the internet was at best a mere concept. As a kid in elementary school, if I wanted to hang out with a friend, I had to go through this highly elaborate process in which I would either dial by memory their home phone number, or locate said number in a small book, almost a pamphlet really, the 10 digits that corresponded with their last name (conveniently alphabetized amongst other local citizens).
Now, make no mistake, phone calls are absolutely still one of the most frequently used methods for scammers today, and it is extremely important to know and review tips on how to handle these phone scams. Best advice: if you don’t know the person, do not answer. Bottom line, in the year 2021, no one should be calling anyone that they don’t personally know.
Unfortunately, with seemingly endless forms or mediums of online communication, scammers of today’s society are showing that they quite literally know no bounds when it comes to defrauding people.
Despite starting out as a popular social media platform among young people, Facebook has expanded well beyond those parameters and has become popular for all ages, particularly older individuals hoping to reconnect with old friends.
Most people know about Facebook’s chat feature, Facebook Messenger. It’s like having unlimited text messaging and phone calls to anyone on your Facebook friends list.
I admit to using Facebook Messenger quite a bit. If I don’t have someone’s cell number but I am friends with them on Facebook, I will simply message. However, convenience aside, it’s apps such as these – Facebook Messenger, Snapchat (any app that provides a feature for instant messaging or chatting) – where scammers not only run rampant but have also developed highly complex methods by which they operate. With the lengths these scammers are willing to go, essentially anyone can fall victim to fraud if they aren’t aware of the warning signs.
Individual scammers usually start by hacking the account of someone on your friend list. This allows them to conduct their scam in complete disguise, free to message anyone on the hacked account’s friend list, while appearing to be an actual real-life acquaintance. One way to tell the difference between the actual person and a scammer is they may send messages claiming things that seem too good to be true. For example, telling you about an easy way to win money. Then they ask for your username for a mobile payment app service such as PayPal, Cash App or Venmo.
These payment apps can provide fast, easy, user-friendly mobile pay services – many of which include a function allowing instant transfers of relatively large sums of money. And they have become the scammers most reliable tool. While these mobile pay apps are extremely popular throughout the globe, remember that the frequent use of these apps has made the job of a scammer much easier by eliminating extra steps between the victim and their money.
Steps for avoiding these scams are simple and straightforward.
Step 1: If something sounds too good to be true, then it absolutely is too good to be true. Do not pursue any such propositions and if you’re approached by an account offering things like this, immediately discontinue any conversations with them and block said account both on Facebook and on Facebook Messenger.
Step 2: If you notice any of your friends making posts that seem out of the norm for them, particularly if you notice their account making what appear to be posts or messages with the same or similar wording or claims, these are signs that an account has been hacked. If you experience this, avoid all communication with said account and un-friend or block said account as soon as you can.
The most important thing to remember when avoiding scams is to trust what common sense tells you is right or wrong. If it seems off, it most likely is. If you’re going to use any of the aforementioned mobile pay apps, be sure to only interact with people you absolutely know and have spoken with face-to-face.