Scammers find their targets through many sources, though the following avenues are most common, according to the American Bankers Association.
- Purchasing contact information: scammers can easily purchase survey responses, buy email contact lists, magazine subscription lists and organization membership lists. Using that information, they are able to setup robo-calls, send mass mailings or create email blasts to attract response.
- Prowling online and social media sites: the advantage of prowling online and social media sites is that many people reveal a great deal of information about their lives which, gives a potential scammer valuable touch points. Scammers then reach out to individuals who provide useful openings.
- Infiltrating social groups: such groups include veterans’ organizations, professional or political associations, houses of worship or anywhere people with similar interests gather. People are more likely to be receptive to scams created by someone who seems to share in common interests, values and may even claim to share mutual friends. The fraudster may feign interest in the victim, gaining his/her trust in order to jump at the opportunity to borrow money, steal assets or access accounts.
- Going door-to-door: some fraud can even happen with charming individuals who ask for donations or peddle expensive products. Relationships are built with the unsuspecting target and personal, identifying information can be easily stolen.
The American Bankers Association also offers the following information on how to avoid and/or respond quickly to scams:
- Don’t give your social security number or other personal credit information about yourself to anyone who contacts you.
- Don’t open email or attachments from unknown sources, and use virus detection software.
- Tear up receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Keep an eye out for any missing mail.
- Choose to do business with companies you know are reputable, particularly online. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active, indicating a secure transaction.
- Never give out personal financial information in an email.
- Never give out personal financial information over the phone unless you have initiated the contact.
- When using social networking sites, never include personal contact information including birth date, email addresses, physical address, mother’s maiden name or other information that could provide sensitive information to fraudsters or hints to passwords.
- Protect your PINs (don’t carry them in your wallet!) and passwords; use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.