Editor's Note: Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, shares tips for protecting yourself and your family from scams.
You may see those seemingly ‘too good to be true' offers pop up on your social media feed, email inbox or even on your phone. Rather than just clicking on links, make sure you know how to spot the warning signs and keep scammers at bay.
1. FREE iPhone X Giveaway
The iPhone X retails for just under $1000 before tax. So it stands to reason that anyone giving away one of these latest gadgets for free, either plans to make that money back or doesn't plan to give it away at all.
Like many of the giveaway scams that crop up on sites like Facebook, the real goal is to gain access to your email address and your friends' list. If scammers can get you to click "like" and share, then they gain an even bigger pool of potential victims.
Email addresses can be bought and sold on the dark web along with other personal information. It may seem harmless, but if they can piece together various details, they can steal your identity.
2. "You're a Lucky Winner!"
Pop-up boxes are the bane of the internet and alert you to anything from phony viruses on your computer to promises of amazing, free goodies. Unfortunately, that promise isn't the only thing they give you if you count the free gift of installing malware on your computer and stealing your identity.
These annoying pop-ups can target any kind of connected device. They're often written into ads that appear on websites, so simply visiting a site is enough to trigger it. Obviously, you shouldn't click on them, but it's also important to make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date to protect you from the threat.
3. Free Retail Gift Card for Taking This Survey
This scam looks innocent enough, but it's another one that targets your personal information. At best it only takes your email address and sells it to advertisers who will proceed to flood your inbox with spam.
Some shadier versions, however, actually require you to download their "coupon installer" to claim your e-gift card; this download is actually a virus.
Remember, major retailers like Walmart and Target do not give out mass quantities of $100 gift cards simply for answering a few questions. Ignore the scam attempt and fight the urge to click on it.
One of the terrible truths about our connected world is that anonymous scammers lie in wait for their next unsuspecting victim, but you can protect yourself from identity theft.
Here are some tips to keep from getting scammed:
- Be weary clicking on links in emails and texts. Especially if you're reading something from someone you don't know, it's always a good idea to check with the sender before clicking links with strange URLs or attachments. Phishing scams are common ways thieves try to get you to input your personal information.
- Check for the fine print. When companies and brands run sweepstakes, contests or raffles, they have to cover all the bases. Their legal teams make them. So check the fine print and if you don't see any, that's a red flag that something isn't legit.
- Double check the legitimacy. If you think a contest seems real, go to the company's website directly. They will have information about it, if so. If you don't see anything there (they may have it on a microsite—a smaller website that links to their main website), you can also call or email them directly to ask about the contest.
Keep in mind that tempting offers for high-priced prizes online are usually nothing more than an open door to identity theft and fraud. As the old saying goes: There is no such thing as something for nothing.
Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.