5 On Your Side

Classic scams remain a risk as digital scams become prominent

Posted May 1, 2018 5:46 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:12 a.m. EDT

By now, most people know they don’t really have a long-lost relative overseas who left them millions of dollars or that the Nigerian prince “investment opportunity” is bogus, but there’s always another scam ripe to rip you off.

Some scams are easier to detect than others and nobody ever thinks they will fall for one, but many of today’s scams have gone digital while old ones are making a comeback.

Pat Slaven was the victim of what’s called check washing, when a personal check was bleached by a scammer and rewritten for twice the original amount.

“I felt victimized. I felt awful,” she said.

Slaven said she dropped off a check in her local mailbox and a scammer somehow got it and doctored it.

While the check washing scam is being revived, digital scams like “smishing,” short for SMS phishing, are impacting mobile phones.

Victims of a “smishing” scam receive a fake text message saying there’s a problem with something like a bank account. If you respond to the text, the scammer will know the number is viable and works to get more personal information.

Fraudsters posing as IRS agents are again in full force, trying to trick people into giving up personal information or money.

“Never click on a link in an email or text without first confirming it’s from someone you trust, and if you get a phone call from someone asking for information and it sounds remotely fishy, hang up,” said Margot Gilman.

Most people have heard of skimmers, but now there are “shimmers,” thin, card-sized gadgets on ATMs or gas pumps that retrieve data specifically from chip cards.

“ATMs installed at a bank tend to be a lot safer than the kind you might find at a convenience store, which can be so much more easily tampered with,” Gilman said.

Many people are still being hit by the tech support scan, where a computer suddenly freezes and a pop-up tells you to call for help. A fraudulent technician then gets remote access to the device and ultimately loads malware, steals personal information or charges you to regain control.

People should also be aware of the refund scam, where someone calls after you receive tech support service to ask if you're satisfied with it. If you say no, they offer a direct deposit refund, but once they get your bank info, they take your money.