SAN ANTONIO — Scams can cost you. Consumers in the San Antonio area lost almost $2 million last year according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Here are scams to watch for in 2023:
Tactic 1: High pressure.
You will be asked for money or personal information immediately.
“There’s always the demand to act now, not think about it,” said Jason Meza, senior regional director for the San Antonio area Better Business Bureau. “Don’t wait to review or investigate it.”
“High pressure and aggressiveness are one of the biggest flags,” said Michael Skiba, known as Dr. Fraud.
“Take a pause because fraudsters definitely do prey on people’s sense of urgency,” said Julieanne Ohlander, a senior business intelligence analyst at BeenVerified. “They tell you that you must act right now and it’s in those moments that you sort of step back and check your accounts yourself rather than just handing over your information to somebody you don’t know on the phone.”
Watch for IRS scams during the upcoming tax season and utilities that claim your service will be cut off immediately if you do not pay an overdue bill.
Tactic 2: You can only pay one way.
Scammers will ask for gift cards, peer-to-peer payment apps like Zelle, Venmo, Cash App, as well as wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. These payment methods are nonrefundable.
“Most legitimate businesses are going to offer multiple ways for a customer to pay them, so if somebody is just saying you can only accept this one payment method, that’s a red flag,” said Ohlander.
“Friends and family deserve the best so we reserve our digital wallets for them,” Meza said. “Cash App, Zelle, Venmo, should be for people you’ve met before.”
“These payment forms are not really made for business transactions,” Skiba said. “The reason why is they don't have really any security elements to them whatsoever. If you’re transferring money and you get tricked, the chance of recourse is little to almost none.”
Tip: Use a credit card because it offers fraud protection.
Tactic 3: Scammers will try to play on your emotions.
“People are naturally vulnerable,” Skiba said. “You know, they’re looking to help. Unfortunately, scammers are really keen on that.”
Watch for romance scams coming up around Valentine’s Day, pet scams, fake charities asking for money to help during a disaster, and scams saying you won a lottery.
“Trust your gut,” Meza said. “If it doesn’t seem or sound right, it could be something that is worth waiting for.”
Use caution with any unsolicited calls, texts, or emails. Scammers are reaching out to thousands of people in hopes they can get just a few to fall for their tricks.
The BBB reported the top five San Antonio-area scams of 2022 included:
- Online purchases
People lost $20,000 in online purchase scams. Consumers encountered fraudulent sellers when attempting to buy pets. Often buyers are asked to send money through an online payment system. Be careful if you find a deal that is too good to be true. Use credit cards for online protection because they offer fraud protection. Review the reviews. Also, make sure there is a way to contact the seller including a working telephone number and a real, physical address.
- Employment scams
Job seekers lost $17,000. Employment scams impersonate well-known businesses. Often, you will lose sensitive personal information in these scams, putting you at risk for identity theft. Many say they will pay applicants to buy materials to set up their home office or for other work-related expenses, but you never get repaid the money. Beware of unsolicited, immediate job offers or a rushed interview process. Insist on communicating with the hiring manager outside of text or email. They should be able to take a phone call or meet in person. Verify the position by checking the official job board of the company. Be suspicious of checks. Do not deposit them and do not send money back because of over-payment.
- Lottery scams
People lost $200. Reports show sweepstakes, prize, and lottery scams revolve around supposed “winners” of a lottery offering some of their winnings to strangers using pay-it-forward messages. The recipient is directed to a website where they put in personal information to claim their winnings. Also, beware of surveys in exchange for free products or free travel packages. Victims are asked to pay taxes or processing fees, something legitimate sweepstakes do not require. Avoid lottery scams by never giving payment for a free gift. Be wary of emails from a lottery winner who is dividing their winnings across multiple people. Verify you entered a drawing. It is unlikely you won a sweepstakes that you did not enter.
Phishing cost people $12,000. This is an old scam used to get sensitive information. These could come as texts or emails from a business. They direct you to a link or website to verify your account details, but in reality, the information is being collected. The most common business schemes in the San Antonio area used in phishing scams include USPS, Amazon, and PayPal. Avoid phishing by not clicking on links in emails or texts. Verify account security by going directly to the official company.
- Debt Collection Scams
No money was lost to this scam. Debt collection scams start with someone claiming to take legal action against you unless you take immediate action. Scare tactics include threats of arrest or lawsuits. The scammer will claim money is owed on a credit card, unpaid ticket, utility bill, or taxes. There will also be a sense of emergency attached to the message. Debt collection scams in the San Antonio area include reports of unpaid medical bills or mortgage payments. Do not provide immediate payment over the phone. Check the debt collection policies of the business or agency. Most outstanding debts do not need to be paid in full immediately and payment plans will be offered. Be careful of what your caller ID says. Scammers can copy those numbers. Only pay bills through official payment portals. Do not send money through wire transfers, cryptocurrencies, gift cards, or mobile banking apps.
Nationwide, BeenVerified reported the fastest-growing scams in 2022 included:
- Facebook Marketplace scams
- Zelle scams
- Tax/IRS scams
- WhatsApp scams
- PayPal scams
BeenVerified also offers a reverse phone number lookup tool to help you find out if a call is legitimate.
“When you get a phone number that you don’t recognize, you can type in that number and see is this a legitimate caller or have other people already reported as a scam or nuisance call?” Ohlander said. “We have taken the data where people have provided enough detail on that call.”
Also know scammers follow the news closely and quickly build scams around what is happening. Scams tend to look new, but scammers are using the same old tactics behind the scenes. Listen to your gut. If something does not feel right, investigate it yourself. Plus, always, always report scams to the BBB ScamTracker so they can be stopped.