Every year, we see the great jokes businesses play on consumers for April Fools’ Day. While some companies make up faux products, like Starbucks did with the Plenta and Micra cups in 2010, some companies go all out on digital pranks.
In 2015, Amazon revamped their site to look like the classic 1999 version and Google went over the top with several jokes, including turning its Maps tool to Pac-Man.
While these antics are harmless and fun, it’s important to remember to think twice before clicking on April 1. While legitimate companies may be pulling pranks and getting some press for it, some stories and sites aren’t credible. Others may mimic well-known or reputable organizations or destinations for more nefarious purposes. In either event, a single click could make you vulnerable to phishing scams or identity theft.
These online scams can not only cost you money, but time as you work with authorities to catch the criminal and recoup what’s been lost. If your finances or identity are affected by a scam, you may also have to spend time repairing your credit.
Here are some tips on how to avoid falling victims to scams this April, culled from past warnings for the Federal Trade Commission.
1. Don’t Trust People Based Solely on Their Apparent Credentials
It’s possible for anyone to make up a title, name, email address or even phone number to get you to trust them. Most trustworthy sources won’t be contacting you via a website or email to collect your personal information.
2. Be Wary of Being Rushed
If you’re feeling pressured to give any information or make a purchase, take a step back. Scammers often use timely threats, like deportation or service shutoffs, to make victims act before thinking.
3. Don’t Wire Money or Transfer Funds
If you personally know a recipient, that’s one thing. But if you don’t, wiring money or using a prepaid debit card is like handing these scammers untraceable cash.
4. Watch Out for Bad Writing
It’s a lot easier to copy an image from another website or email, but poor writing (typos, strange phrasing, bad grammar, etc.) is a warning sign of a scam.
5. Contact Them Instead
If you received an email or message from a company, contact their official number to verify the information. Don’t use the email or phone number that the message provides, as that may not get you accurate information. If they’re calling you, say you’ll return their call instead of doing anything right away.
If a scammer does make you fall for their April Fools’ prank, or you think your personal information was compromised, it’s important to report it to the proper authorities. You can go here to learn what to do if you are a victim of identity theft. Take your personal security one step further and check your credit score for signs of fraud. (You can do so by viewing your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- 3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email