How to spot a scammer

A cautionary tale from a Duhawk

Towards the end of January, I received an email from Loras College asking if I wanted to become a secret shopper and make $1,000 a week doing so. Obviously this seemed very lucrative – a lot of money for not that many hours of work. It seemed like something a scammer would send out too. However, the email came from Loras College, so it had to be legit, right? The college wouldn’t knowingly send out scams.

I went with the latter and decided to sign up. Nothing came from it for weeks, so I figured nothing of it. Then, out of the blue, I get a check in the mail for $1,600. I’m completely dumbfounded at this point because in my hands, I have a check for a sizable amount of money. However, this money didn’t come alone. Along with the check came instructions on what to do with it and consistent texting from someone telling me to cash the check as soon as possible (equivalent to a fly that won’t leave you alone).

So to recap, I have a large check of money, a random number telling me to cash the check as soon as possible, and utter confusion about how I got to this point. After doing some digging online, the supposed company that did this took another company’s name and sent out very unprofessional looking emails, little to no information about their business model, and had a phone number reported multiple times as belonging to a scammer. It was finally determined that this whole ordeal was in fact, too good to be true.

Opportunities like this that seem “too good to be true” often are. Scams come in many different shapes and forms, and when looking at a scheme, they are not too hard to spot. Scams can come over call, text, mail, emails – really any form of communication device – and are usually targeted at getting money from you. As an informed consumer, there are many ways to protect yourself, and these are just a few:

1. This is probably the most important rule to follow: never, under any circumstances, give out any of your banking information, especially to people you have just met or people online.

2. Scammers often contact you out of the blue and can be overly friendly.

3. In my case with checks, they ask you to wire money back to them. There is no reason you should have to wire someone money when you have just been given money by them.

4. Scammers often pressure you into making quick decisions so you don’t have time to think about what you are actually doing.

5. Scammers often will tell you  to keep what you’re doing a secret.

Scams are very easy to fall into, and for someone who is not careful, they can leave them facing massive consequences. The most important thing to use is common sense and logic when someone brings something like this to you. All it takes is a few quick clicks and a few minutes of research to see if it is a scam. Remember: if you think it’s too good to be true, then you’re probably right.

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