How to Protect Yourself from Scams

How to avoid scamsScams may come in various forms, but the goal is the same– to obtain money or personally identifiable information from others using trickery and deception. Scammers often exploit times of crisis and employ pressure tactics to target individuals. Those who fall victim can be left to deal with financial and emotional distress. It is crucial to recognize common scams, protect yourself in advance, and take immediate action if you’ve been scammed. 


Common types of scams

While the goals of scammers rarely change, the strategies that scammers choose can evolve. Education is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers. Familiarize yourself with these common scams: 

Phishing scams

Phishing occurs when a scammer sends a message that tricks you into providing sensitive information, like passwords and credit or debit card numbers. These deceptive messages are generally sent via email or text message and appear to be from a legitimate company. Clicking on suspicious URLs in the messages could result in unauthorized access to your bank account. With the right information in the wrong hands, phishing can even result in identity theft. 


Charity scams

Scammers might try to take advantage of a person’s generosity, especially during the holidays or in the aftermath of a natural disaster. A charity scam occurs when a scammer creates a fake charity or pretends to be a representative of a legitimate one. The scammer may convince you to contribute funds to help those in need, only to pocket the money for themselves.


Impersonation scams

It is common for a scammer to pretend to be someone you know or someone you would normally trust. To gain access to your money, they may impersonate an individual from the IRS, a member of law enforcement, a delivery person, or another trusted role. It's also common for scammers to pose as a family member in distress to trick you into sending money to help.


Lottery or prize scams

You might receive a message telling you that you’re the lucky winner of a prize. However, you should be wary of lottery or prize scams. The scammer may convince you that to claim your winnings, you must pay a fee or disclose your bank account numbers. If you don't recall entering a contest, it's likely a fraudulent message.


Online purchase scams

The Better Business Bureau’s 2022 Online Scams Report reveals that online purchase scams occur more than any other scam. These scams often involve a fake online ad that advertises a desirable item at an attractive price. Once the purchase is completed, the buyer is either sent a counterfeit item or nothing at all. When shopping online, stick to reputable retailers.


How to identify scams

Scammers continually adapt and create new, persuasive scenarios. Being aware of the typical signs of a scam can help you prevent falling for one. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines several methods to identify a scam:

1. Scammers pretend to be from a familiar organization

A person trying to scam you may pretend to contact you on behalf of an organization you know. This could include posing as a government official, a representative from your utility company, or a charity requesting donations. In addition to using an official-sounding title to appear credible, these scammers may use spoofing techniques to manipulate the phone number displayed on your caller ID. 


2. Scammers say there’s a problem or a prize

Scammers can use a variety of tactics to deceive you. They may pretend to contact you regarding a problem, such as posing as your bank calling to verify charges or claiming you owe back taxes to the IRS. Alternatively, scammers may say that you've won a prize in a contest but insist on a payment before you can receive it. If you’re eligible for a special offer without prior communication, then it is likely a scam. 


3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately

Scammers frequently rely on pressure tactics to create a sense of urgency. They want to rush their targets into making hasty decisions without proper consideration or research. In these situations, you could easily overlook poor grammar or misspelled words. These mistakes can be a telltale sign that the communication is not from a trustworthy source. Reputable companies typically maintain a high level of professionalism in their correspondence.


4. Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way

Another sign that could indicate a scam is when you’re asked to pay using an unconventional method. A scammer might ask for payment via wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. Additionally, scammers might employ a fake check scam. This is when they request that you deposit a fraudulent check for more than the agreed amount and then send back the excess funds. These alternative payment methods are less traceable, making it easier for scammers to carry out their illegal activities.


Ways to protect yourself from scams

Safeguarding yourself from scams is all about being aware, skeptical, and proactive. Trust your instincts and question unexpected requests, especially those that require you to share personal or financial information online. Here are a few basic security measures you can take to protect yourself from the most common scams:

Conduct research

If you receive an unsolicited email, text message, or phone call, it's important to do some research before engaging. Legitimate organizations will not ask for personal information like your social security number, passwords, or credit card numbers via email or social media. Additionally, you can verify the identity of the person or organization by calling the number on the organization’s official website. Being cautious and verifying information is better than falling victim to a scam. 


Stay proactive

Another way to prevent scams is to stay ahead of the scammers. Create a strong, unique password for each of your accounts. You should also ensure your devices and apps are updated with security patches for defense against malware. For an added layer of protection, consider enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. Finally, make it a habit to monitor your accounts regularly for any suspicious activity.


Slow down

When you receive a questionable message, slow down and resist the temptation to act immediately. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments right away. Protect yourself from scams by verifying the sender's email address, checking for grammatical or spelling errors, and ignoring messages that use generic greetings instead of your name. If you're still uncertain, look up the company's phone number and call them directly. You could also navigate directly to the official website to securely log into your accounts.


What to do if you were scammed

Following basic online safety strategies can help you stay safe. However, mistakes can happen, particularly when you're stressed or overwhelmed. If you are a victim of a scam or believe someone is trying to steal your identity, it’s important to act immediately to diminish the potential damage. 

Protect yourself from further damage

First, stop further interactions with the scammer. It’s a good idea to document all emails and messages related to the scam, as they may be useful when reporting the incident. If you’ve shared login information with the scammer, change your account passwords.

You should also contact your bank or credit card issuer. If your card was compromised, report the activity and request a new debit or credit card immediately. Enroll in notifications for all card charges and dispute any transactions that you didn’t make. Continue to monitor all of your financial accounts and credit reports for suspicious activity.


Contact 1st Financial Bank USA

If you are a victim of a phishing email or are concerned about any cybersecurity issue involving 1st Financial Bank USA, please contact us, toll free, at 1-844-328-9330, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am - 8:00 pm (Central Time) and Saturday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm (Central Time) excluding Federal holidays.

If you have received a suspicious or phishing email that purports to be from 1FBUSA, or otherwise requests personal or account information, please forward the email to us at We will send you an automated response to let you know we received your email, and if necessary, we will follow-up within a few days. You do not need to be a 1FBUSA customer to report a suspicious email to us. 


Report the scam

When filing a report, try to include as much detail as possible. The more information the authorities have, the better they can investigate and take appropriate action. After notifying your financial institution to prevent further damage, report the scam to other relevant agencies or law enforcement. You can use’s scam reporting tool to help determine who to contact. 

    • Notify local or state law enforcement to file a report of a scam.
    • If your scam happened online, file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
    • If the incident involves a business or organization, report the scam to the Better Business Bureau using the BBB’s Scam Tracker.
    • If the scam occurred on one of your social media accounts, contact the social media platform’s customer support team.
    • Report scams and other fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

When you file a report, you give yourself a greater chance of recovering any financial losses and help society as a whole. The authorities can use the information from the report to investigate and build a case against the scammer. Once your report is reviewed, it can assist in spotting trends, educating the public, and accumulating data about what’s happening in your community.


Share your experience

If you’ve been scammed, share your experience directly with your network to raise awareness and warn others about the scam. By telling your story to friends, family, and colleagues, you can educate them about the current tactics used by scammers. Your experience could potentially help others from falling victim to similar schemes in the future. 

Anyone has the potential to fall victim to an online scam. Learning how to avoid scams involves staying cautious, doing your research, and trusting your instincts. These methods can work wonders when it comes to protecting yourself. Scammers’ tactics are constantly evolving, so make an effort to stay informed and keep your money and data safe. If something doesn’t seem right, there’s a good chance it isn’t. 




✍️You knew that you shouldn't give your financial information to potential scammers. Do you know the other Things Every College Freshman Should Know About Money?

🤐After getting the facts about scams, read 5 Credit Card Myths You Need to Hear the Truth About.