Scam Watch: The 4 Financial Scams to Watch Out For in 2024

The 4 Financial Scams to Watch Out For in 2024
Image via Alex Kotliarskyi

From Birch Gold Group

Summary:

  • In 2023, fraudulent activities inflicted over $7 billion in losses to American consumers within the first nine months, up 5% from the year before.
  • Studies indicate that being informed about a particular scam makes you 80% less likely to fall for it.

Financial scammers are quick to adopt new technologies to steal money from their targets. Thanks to the rapid growth of artificial intelligence tools, criminals can now record a voice and create a synthetic “deepfake” audio that mimics the source – but follows the scammer’s script.

We aren’t talking about a geek swindling people from his garage, either. Financial scams are often run by organized criminal gangs, transnational enterprises who hire employees and provide well-crafted scripts to separate victims from their wealth.

Financial scammers have more resources than we do – they have a time-tested, heavily-revised script. They have an organized process for their scheme. They have checklists managed by motivated employees who often are paid commissions based on the amount of cash they swindle.

According to Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs at AARP:

“Fraud is at a crisis level in this country.”

The bad guys have a lot going for them – and what we have, to counter them, is education. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation reports that awareness of a specific type of scam makes us 80% less likely to fall for it. If we do fall for the scam, we’re 40% less likely to lose money or sensitive personal information.

Turns out that G.I. Joe was wrong – knowing is a lot more than just half the battle…

Keep this in mind while reading through the list of 2024’s top financial scams. Just knowing about them makes you 92% less likely to lose either money or personal information.

#1: Online account tax scams

Scammers posing as helpful third-party accountants or tax services agents offer to help you create an online account with the IRS to pay your taxes (or receive your refund). The goal is to steal your personal information.

Never ever engage with any “tax help” companies you haven’t sought out. Never file or pay your taxes anywhere than IRS.gov

#2: Employment scams

Looking for a part-time job? Or a new career? You may be contacted for an interview – and receive an email to fill out personal information with the hiring company before your interview. (Sometimes, this personal information request is framed as a background check instead.)

The goal is to steal your personal information – which makes cracking your bank account easy.

Don’t pass any personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. If an employment offer intrigues you, research the company thoroughly before accepting an interview.

#3: Grandparent scams

Impostor scams often exploit emotional connections by masquerading as someone the victim trusts. The “grandparent scam” is a sophisticated con where fraudsters use AI tools to mimic a loved one’s voice. According to Michael Bruemmer, vice president of global data breach and consumer protection at Experian, “All they need is less than a 10-second voiceprint” to convincingly fake a loved one’s voice.

They call, claiming to be a relative in desperate need of funds due to an arrest, a health crisis or other urgent mishap. They concoct stories to discourage the victim from seeking advice or help, such as inventing a law enforcement “gag order” on an arrest.

Never, ever allow yourself to be rushed into a financial decision! (This is good advice, even when dealing with legitimate family emergencies.) Use your family contacts to confirm an emergency situation before contributing a single dollar to even the most urgent plea for cash. If the request comes from an unrecognized number, it’s smart to call or text the person’s usual number and ask whether the request is legitimate.

#4: Investment scams

Investment-related fraud is the most costly of financial scams. Americans lost more than $3.8 billion in 2022 (about $5,000 per incident, on average) according to the FTC.

Scammers often use cryptocurrencies as payment for investment scams because they don’t have the same legal protections as credit cards or even ACH transactions. Worse still, cryptocurrency payments are usually irreversible.

That creates a perfect situation for scammers: A cryptocurrency can be both the investment the scammer is allegedly selling, and the means of payment.

Sometimes investment scams rise from a standard romance scam. Other times, the first sign is an analyst or “investment manager” cold-calling you with a hot tip that’s just too good to be true.

Anyone who claims you can quadruple your money in a week, or earn a “risk-free return” on an investment, is a fraud. Never forget, in the wise words of Dr. William Bernstein, “risk and return joined at the hip.”

Remember also that no legitimate government agency will ever demand that you buy (or pay them) with cryptocurrency. There are some jurisdictions where paying with crypto is an option, but it’s never a requirement.

Alternate forms of payment are always a red flag. Never let anyone pressure you into signing up for a new payment service, for example. Entering your bank credentials into a shady electronic payment provider you’ve never heard of can lead to disastrous consequences.

Forewarned is forearmed

Knowing what to look out for is key to defending against most scams. To help you detect and avoid financial scams, Birch Gold Group has pulled together an extensive resource guide that is now available on our website. The Birch Gold Group Scam Protection Resource Guide helps you identify warning signs and provides you with tips on how to avoid fraud.

2024, Featured, scam watch