Identifying Scams in Different Types of Messages

Scams will always be with us...

Many of us read the article on CCToday a few days ago about the alert merchant who helped Mashpee police thwart a scam on a resident. It was a great reminder to be alert at all times to things that just aren’t right. Each one of us, however, has to take responsibility for protecting ourselves and our loved ones from scam attempts.

Scams have always been with us and sadly they always will be. The very common phishing scams are trying to get personal information. Some scams are directly trying to get money under false pretenses. Sadly, that can even include charities—fake websites and messages that spoof real charities. Scams are increasingly varied and more sophisticated. Here are some popular recent ones in addition to the “your relative is in danger” in the Mashpee incident:

  • Email notifying receiver of an unsolicited event on Google Calendar. The email includes a link to a phishing site. If you use Google Calendar, turn off the Automatically Add Invitations option in Settings to avoid triggering this scam.
  • The tech support scam usually takes the form of a telephone call purporting to be from Microsoft or Windows saying a virus has been detected on the user’s computer. Users are directed to a website that installs malware to steal data. This scam can also show up as a pop-up window on the computer. Don’t click on the link.
  • Puppy scams are frequent these days and can result in substantial amounts of money lost. Follow the advice of the BBB to verify the authenticity of the offer.
  • Banking scams carried out under the name of service providers can involve using a verification code in a text message to gain access to bank accounts. Always deal directly with your bank.
  • And the list goes on…and on.

I gave a list of warnings in my earlier article on phishing emails, but here is a broader list:

  • Banks, government agencies and medical providers never contact consumers to request information. Alerts saying there is a problem should never be replied to. Contact the organization directly to see if the alert is correct.
  • Scams can be carried out in any communications channel:
    • The Caller ID on phones can be faked to look like a company or government agency and the number can be spoofed to look like a local call. Do not rely on it.
    • Email scams use URLs that look like the corporate or non-profit account; look closely to be sure the URL is exactly correct.
    • Text scams usually appear to come from a company or even from a contact warning of a scam. Do not click on any links. Contact the supposed sender directly.
  • If the caller is conveying a sense of urgency, it is a scam.
  • If the message tries to instill fear by saying you or someone close to you has done something wrong or is in difficulty, it is a scam.
  • Asking for gift cards is certain evidence of a scam.
  • Spelling mistakes and awkward grammar are signs of a scam.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is!

+    All of these also apply to direct mail scams.

For a good explanation of types of scams, see this list on the usa.gov site. The list includes some of the time-honored scams like “you’ve won something big and you have to pay to collect it.”

New types of scams do pop up, but the worst problem is that scammers are becoming better at conducting the familiar types of scams. More on that in the next article.


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