Money and Debt

Legally Informed: Scams to Watch Out for in 2024

Artificial intelligence tools and other new technology makes it challenging for consumers to spot a scam when it happens to them. There are several scams to watch out for this year, and it’s important to talk about these with your friends and family. 

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Ohio Legal Help seeks to make the justice system more accessible so that people feel empowered to resolve their legal problems. Our blog series, Legally Informed, will help you understand important things to know when dealing with legal issues. This blog highlights the top scams to watch out for in 2024.

Artificial intelligence tools and other new technology makes it challenging for consumers to spot a scam when it happens to them. There are several scams to watch out for this year, and it’s important to talk about these with your friends and family. More awareness of potential scams means that you and your loved ones are less likely to fall victim to them.

If you think you have been scammed, visit the consumer resources on the Federal Trade Commission website and be sure to report it.

Sweetheart/Romance
 

A scammer will typically use a fake name and photo to lure an unsuspecting victim in. They often reach out with a story that is untrue in order to start to form an emotional relationship with a victim with the ultimate goal of getting money from them. In most romance scams, the scammer and victim will never meet and the relationship will feel completely real to the victim. 

These scams are not to be confused with “Catfishing” which can have the intent of forming a relationship. Romance scams are also often “long cons” which means the scammer will condition the victim for awhile before making their first ask for money. The main red flag to watch out for is if the person you think you are in love with online starts telling you a sob story and asking for money. They often will have many excuses for why they cannot meet you in person, and if you’re suspicious, it’s most likely time to step away from it. 

TIP: You can use a reverse image search tool to check if a profile picture is being used in other places. If the image seems off in some way, such as warped facial features, there’s a good possibility it could be AI generated and you can use a GAN detector to check (the first 20 images are free). 

Grandparent/Elderly Family Member
 

Playing on someone’s emotions to get money from them doesn’t just happen with romance scams, it can also happen with your family members. Scammers can now capture a voice recording and generate an imitation version of a voice that can be used to impersonate you. The scammer will target an elderly person such as a grandparent, and call and pretend that they need money urgently while using a loved one’s voice.

Scammers will also mine social media data to gain access to personal information, making the scam seem even more legitimate. A red flag is if the scammer asks a grandparent to “not tell mom or dad.”

TIP: Choose a safe word to communicate with your family members in cases of emergency. Don’t answer texts, emails or phone calls from unknown people, but if you do, be sure to hang up and call your loved one on their phone number to check. 

Cryptocurrency/Investment
 

Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency designed that allows people to make payments directly to each other through an online system. Investment related scams involve cryptocurrency in two ways – both the investment can be fraudulent and the payments cannot be reversed. Scammers like to use cryptocurrencies because they do not offer the same legal protections as a credit card.

These scams sometimes involve romance, but they can also appear in the form of a fake investment manager who wants you to invest in something that is too good to be true. A legitimate business or government entity will never text or email you to ask for payment with cryptocurrency. Scammers will rush you into making a quick investment decision so take your time researching any offer.

TIP: Pass information on to your friends and family if you get targeted for a scam. Information is power, and the more people who know about a type of scam, the less likely they are to fall victim to it. 

Employment
 

Job-related scams are becoming more common as people seek work-from-home jobs, companies lay off workers, and more positions are posted online. Scammers will send you an email from a fake employer to collect personal information so they can access your bank account. 

It’s also common for a scammer to place an ad online with the claim of a job that will make you a lot of money with little effort, often through reselling. Scammers will tell you that you need to pay a start up fee for training or supplies, and then you will never receive your first paycheck or even the goods you paid for. You can read more about specific types of job scams on the FTC website.

TIP: Never click on a link in a text or email that you suspect could be a scam and always check the email address. You can also look up the company name along with “review” or “scam” to see if anyone else has been targeted by them in a scam.

Housing
 

Finding a home to rent is challenging at times, and scammers are making it even harder to find real listings. Scammers will capture photos and information from a real rental listing, and change the agent contact information with their own. They will post the ad on a new site, often on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, and wait for someone to email or call inquiring about the rental.

From there, they will have you fill out your personal information and send in a deposit or first month’s rent. After they receive your money, the listing and the scammer disappear and you are left with no place to move in to. 

With any rental listing, be sure to research the property and the company or individual listing the rental. If the price of the rental seems too low for the area, there is a good chance it is too good to be true.

TIP: Never send payment to someone for a rental that you haven’t yet seen in person. If they make an excuse as to why they can’t show you the property before payment, keep looking for a different place to live. 

Impersonator/Social Media
 

One in four people who reported losing money to fraud since 2021 said it started on social media, according to the FTC. Social media makes it even easier for scammers to pose as someone else or pretend to be you and con your friends and family. There are many types of scams that happen through social media, including romance, investment, and online shopping.

Impersonators often use the same photos, names, descriptions, posts, and hashtags as the official or real accounts. It is also common for them to impersonate “support” or “customer service” pages or run raffles and promotions. The type of social media channel determines the form of impersonation and type of scam – for example, scammers have been sending phishing messages through Facebook messenger posing as an official Facebook account or employee to gain access to your private information so they can hack your account. They will claim your account is at risk of being deleted if you don’t provide your information, when in reality your account is only at risk if you give them your information.

TIP: Make sure your social media has certain privacy settings turned on and don’t disclose too much personal information about your age, your kids’ or pets’ names, where you live, or your finances. If you are worried that your account has been hacked, let your friends and family know as soon as possible and file a report with the social media platform. You can also report impersonation accounts to most social media platforms through their app. 

Immigration
 

Scammers often try to use complicated processes like immigration to take advantage of people. In the U.S., only immigration lawyers or people authorized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) can help with immigration advice. Watch out for scammers pretending to be notarios, notary publics, accountants, or consultants. In Latin American countries, the word notario or notary public means the person is a lawyer, but that's not the case in the U.S.

Only lawyers and DOJ-accredited individuals from recognized organizations can give you legal advice here. Anyone else is most likely just trying to take your money, and sometimes their wrong advice can affect your chance at immigration. The DOJ has a list of accredited individuals and recognized organization. You can learn more about finding an immigration lawyer on our website.

TIP: Watch out for fake immigration websites. If the website doesn’t in in .gov, it’s not a federal U.S. government website. You can learn more about avoiding common immigration scams on the FTC website.

 

To report a scam, go to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too. You can also report the scam if it involves dollar losses to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center here: https://www.ic3.gov/.

Concerned that a business has mislead or lied to you about their goods or services? You can read more about protecting yourself from consumer fraud on our website.

Worried about identity theft? You can check your credit for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. All three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will communicate with each other for 1 year if you put a fraud alert on one. To freeze your credit, you have to make a request to each credit bureau individually. 

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