How to Avoid Common Online Money Scams
The internet is a great resource, one that undoubtedly makes our lives easier. Unfortunately, it’s also a great tool for scammers, increasing the reach and efficiency of their traps. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that consumers lost nearly 3.3 billion dollars to fraudulent practices in 20201. With the rise in online scams, everybody should use increased caution, especially when applying for loans.
At Heights Finance, we care about your financial security and never want your personal information to fall into the wrong hands. That’s why we’ve put together this list of common ways people get tricked into online scams. Whether applying for a loan, paying bills, or simply answering the phone, always pay attention to your intuition and the potential red flags. It is better to be over secure than put you and your assets at risk.
Urgent Email Requests
When applying for a loan, the provider will generally reference your financial assets and standings when creating an offer. Once the loan is offered, an expiration date will be attached to the offer. This is a common practice utilized to protect the provider in case your financial situation changes once the offer has been made. However, if you run across a personal loan provider that’s rushing you to make hasty decisions via email, chances are it’s a scam. One of the telltale signs of a personal loan scammer is applying pressure to act IMMEDIATELY. You should never feel pressured to proceed with a loan before having all the information. Reputable lenders will not use aggressive timers to get you to act. Also, your official expiration date will be presented formally. At Heights, we understand that customers often have questions and concerns when reviewing the terms of a loan. Instead of pressuring you to make a decision, we’ll make sure you thoroughly understand the process and terms.
While some loan companies require an application processing fee or credit check fees when processing a larger loan, such fees should be clearly disclosed in the loan documents. However, scammers often ask for these fees as a last-minute request, or require you to wire them money. Do not pay these fees or wire last-minute payments. Legitimate loan providers do not ask for random, virtual payments. In fact, most payments can be made via cash at a location, written check or with online options through company websites or applications. A good rule of thumb is that you should never give money to get money!
Debt Claims From Unknown Providers
How often do you receive a phone call or email from an unknown provider saying you owe money? Probably all the time. This is a common trick used by scammers to get you to share personal information or transfer money. These scammers hide behind aliases of banks, credit card companies or online payment sites. So, how can you determine if this is a legitimate call or just another scam? These phishing messages generally utilize a storyline to get you to click on a link or open an attachment.2 Scammers are pros and often able to outsmart your junk mail filter, so try and protect yourself with updated security software on your computer as well as multi-factor authentication on your accounts. Of course, the best thing you can do to prevent getting caught in these scams is to never click on the link, no matter how legitimate the debt claim seems. Look up the company’s phone number and call them directly. This allows you to take back control and know for certain who you’re talking with. Regardless of how you’re contacted, do not send any payments until you receive proof of the debt they claim you owe… which is actually required by law!
Protect Your Personal Information
Nowadays, the most important asset you need to keep safe is your personal information. Guard your identity in every single interaction. No matter who you’re talking to, remember to be vigilant in how you share information. If a company asks for your credit card information or Social Security number, you can always ask to call them back or have them verify their credentials.3 If they seem offended by this request, chances are they are not legitimate. Any legitimate lender, provider, or company will understand that this request is very reasonable. At Heights Finance, we are focused on transparency and protecting your information. If you ever feel uncomfortable sharing information with us virtually, you always have the option to work with us in person. To find your friendly, neighborhood branch, simply visit heightsfinance.com, click “Find a Branch” and enter your zip code.
Other Measures You Can Take
As scammers become more clever, it’s important to equip yourself with multiple tools to combat their tricks. Maintaining a record of all outstanding debt, along with your lender’s contact information, will allow you to efficiently cross reference payment requests and debt claims. Also, regularly checking your bank, credit and debit card statements will help you catch unauthorized transactions early on. However, if you do suspect you’re being scammed, report it to your local law enforcement immediately. This is a vital step in protecting your assets. Next, reach out to the lender that the scammer claims to represent. By bringing your concerns to the local authorities and lender in question, you are not only protecting yourself, but others who might be scammed in the future.4
Stay Local and Stay Secure
Identifying scams can be difficult, which is why they tend to have so much success. However, the tips above should significantly reduce the chances of it happening to you. Remember, when it comes to personal loans, working with a credible name or local lender is the best way to stay safe. If you’re interested in applying for a personal loan, we’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have. In fact, we highly recommend consulting a local lender before doing business with an unverified online company. It’s just one of many simple ways to protect yourself and your personal information.