Key Takeaways:

  • Transition to electronic payments and secure mail practices to mitigate risks associated with check alteration scams.
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited calls and messages, particularly those seeking personal or financial information, to guard against voice impersonation and celebrity scams.
  • Always verify the legitimacy of prize claims and emergency requests for assistance, especially those purportedly from family members, to prevent falling victim to sweepstakes and grandparent scams.

n an age where technology and sophistication in scams are ever-evolving, staying informed and vigilant is crucial. Criminals have fine-tuned their deceit, making scams look incredibly convincing and taking advantage of both new technology and psychological tactics. 

Here's a rundown of the top five scams that you should be cautious of in 2024:

Top 5 Scams to Look Out for in 2024:

1. Check Alteration Scams

What You Need to Know:

Check alteration involves manipulating the details on a check—such as the payee’s name or the amount—after it has been signed. In its digital form, scammers use software to modify a check’s digital image, which can then be printed out or electronically deposited. This form of scam exploits the physical and digital vulnerabilities of paper checks in today's banking environment.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Use Electronic Payments: Opt for electronic payment methods when possible, as they often offer better security features.
  • Secure Mail: Send checks directly from the post office or use secure mailboxes.
  • Regular Monitoring: Regularly check your bank statements for any discrepancies. Early detection is key to preventing significant loss.
  • Fraud Alerts: Consider setting up fraud alerts with your bank, which can notify you of suspicious activity on your account.

Learn More: Check Fraud Alert: Protecting Yourself from Alteration Scams

2. Voice Impersonation Scams

What You Need to Know:

Voice impersonation scams use advanced software to clone an individual's voice from a short audio sample. The cloned voice can then be used to make fraudulent calls that mimic the victim, deceiving recipients into believing they are speaking with someone they trust. This scam is particularly insidious as it leverages the trust we place in recognizing a familiar voice, making requests for money or sensitive information seem legitimate.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Be Cautious with Personal Information: Never share sensitive information over the phone unless you initiated the call to a number you trust.
  • Verify Unexpected Requests: If you receive a suspicious call, hang up and contact the company or individual directly through known and trusted contact details.
  • Get Familiar with Scams: Familiarize yourself with voice phishing (vishing) tactics. Resources like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website provide updates on the latest scams.

Learn More: Mimicry and Money: The Rise of AI Voice Scams and Defense Strategies

‍3. Sweepstakes and Prize Scams

What You Need to Know:

These scams trick victims into believing they have won a prize or lottery they never entered. The scammer typically requests payment for taxes, fees, or processing costs as a precondition to releasing the supposed winnings. Alternatively, they may ask for bank account details or personal information under the guise of verifying the recipient's identity, leading to direct financial theft or identity fraud.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Verify the Source: Look up official contact information for the company supposedly offering the prize and reach out directly to confirm.
  • Never Pay to Receive a Prize: Legitimate prizes do not require payment or personal information to claim.
  • Report Scams: If you encounter a sweepstakes scam, report it to the FTC or your local consumer protection agency.

Learn More: Winning or Losing? The Reality Behind Sweepstakes and Prize Scams

4. Virtual Celebrity Impersonation Scams

What You Need to Know:

Scammers impersonate celebrities or their agents to exploit fans. Using social media or email, they reach out to individuals with messages claiming to be from the celebrity, expressing a desire for communication or assistance. The scam may involve requests for money, supposedly due to a financial emergency, or ask for personal details under the pretext of a private meeting or exclusive offer. The illusion of personal attention from a celebrity can cloud judgment, leading to financial losses or the compromise of personal information.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Scrutinize Direct Messages: Be wary of unsolicited messages from "celebrities." Genuine celebrities rarely reach out to fans for personal favors or money.
  • Research: Use online search engines to verify any claims. Often, scams are reported by news outlets or exposed by other victims.
  • Use Official Channels: Engage with celebrities through their official social media profiles and websites, typically verified by a blue checkmark.

Learn More: False Fame: How to Spot and Avoid Celebrity Impersonation Scams

5. The Grandparent Scam

What You Need to Know:

This emotional manipulation scam targets grandparents with urgent phone calls from someone pretending to be their grandchild. The caller typically claims to be in a dire situation—like being arrested or hospitalized—and in immediate need of money for bail, medical expenses, or another emergency. The scam relies on the grandparent’s instinct to help their loved one without hesitation, pushing for quick action before the claims can be verified.

How to Protect Yourself:

  • Verify the Caller: Always verify the identity of the caller through another means, such as calling back on a known phone number.
  • Establish a Code Word: Create a family code word that can be used to verify a family member's identity in emergencies.
  • Educate Family Members: Discuss these scams with your family, ensuring everyone is aware and can recognize the signs of a scam.

Learn More: The Grandparent Scam: Don't Fall Victim

In summary, scams aimed at older adults are getting trickier, using new tech and playing on emotions. But, by keeping up-to-date, being careful, and taking steps to protect yourself, you can boost your guard against these scams. It's crucial to always be alert, double-check any unexpected requests, and choose safe ways to communicate and do transactions.

Learn More:

Feb 6, 2024
Digital Literacy