The coronavirus pandemic has many people worried about their finances and trying to hang onto every penny. Money expert Clark Howard says there’s a scam that’s on the rise right now that could cost you money if you’re not careful. And it’s usually tied to a company where you’re already a customer.
Clark wants you to safeguard your finances and your personal information so that that scams like these don’t ruin you financially.
In this article, we’ll go over what this bill scam looks like and how you can protect yourself.
What Is a Pretexting Scam?
One scam on the rise today is what’s known as “pretexting”: You could get an email, text or phone call from someone posing as a bill collector saying that you’re delinquent.
The timing for such a scam couldn’t be worse, Clark says:
“People are a little discombobulated now,” he says. “You may have had trouble staying current with your bills, or just emotionally you’re not yourself. And so scammers are taking advantage of that and trying to get money out of you falsely for bills you don’t owe.”
How a Pretexting Scam Works
In a pretexting scam, a crook will impersonate someone who works for a certain organization — usually a big company. The scammer will send you a text or email with a link and instructions to use it to pay your delinquent bill. If you click on the link, you’ll be taken to a website that looks identical to a company where you’re a customer.
Clark says the criminals are trying to get you to:
- Sign in to your account, which gives them access to information you don’t want them to have.
- Enter your financial information into a payment portal, which could let them steal money from your account.
“The worst part,” Clark says, “is that you don’t owe money to that legitimate organization, but you’re conned into believing you do by the crooks.”
2 Ways to Protect Yourself Against a Pretexting Scam
Clark says to follow these two steps to protect yourself from a pretexting scam and ensure that you don’t lose your money via online theft.
1. Never Click on a Payment Link Inside a Text or Email
“Anytime you receive a text or an email from anyone saying that you owe money, even if it might be legit, never, never, never click on the link to pay inside that text or email. Because even if it’s a bill you owe, it could be an illegitimate source attempting to bill you,” Clark says.
2. Pay Your Bills Online by Going to the Website Yourself
Companies make it easy to pay your bills online these days by including payment links in their correspondence, but the crooks do the same thing. The issue is that “when you click on that link, instead of going where you want to go, you could be going on the crook’s lookalike site,” Clark says.
To avoid being defrauded, when you want to pay a bill online, make sure you “type in the web address for that business and go there yourself,” he says.
Once you’re on the particular company’s website, confirm for yourself:
- Whether you have a balance
- Whether you face any past due charges
Many of us get tons of emails on a daily basis and it may be difficult to know which are legitimate. But it’s worth it to take your time when you run across an online bill.