Real vs Fake puzzle pieces

Traits of Most Scams

Learn how to spot a scam and protect yourself.

Most scams have the following traits:

  • The message arrives unexpectedly.
  • The sender has never asked you to perform the requested action before.
  • There is a sense of urgency or a claim that you will be penalized if you do not take action immediately.
  • If the request is malicious, performing the requested action would harm your interests.

How to protect against scams:

  • Teach yourself, your co-workers, your friends and family the four traits of scams above.
  • Adopt a healthy level of skepticism and evaluate all incoming messages, no matter how they arrive (be it email, post mail, web, SMS (text), social media, voice calls, etc.). 
  •  If the request has any of the above mentioned  traits, confirm the validity of the request using a different method, before performing any further actions. 
  • Keep up to date on the latest scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission

One note of caution. Not all scams contain all four traits. There are some advanced scams where these traits do not apply. For example, in a mortgage escrow scam, an intruder has usually successfully compromised a mortgage lender’s (or escrow agent’s) computer, scans for pending housing sales and then sends bogus bank money wiring instructions to the party buying the house on the day they were expecting to be told to make a loan escrow payment. The request arrives from the person they were expecting it to arrive from, on the day they were told to expect it, for the amount they were expected to have to pay to get the loan. Everything looks legit, but they do not know that the bank wiring account information leads to the attacker’s bank account.

Think you have been a victim of fraud?  Visit the Federal Trade Commission for more information.