How to avoid falling prey to online scam artists

If you’re feeling unsure about a text message, email, phone call, or snail mail, read these tips.

A blurred woman looks at her smartphone, which has a dark screen.

Texans are some of the most likely people to receive a spam text message.

Around 375 million text scams were sent per day in 2022. Texans received the highest amount in 2021, so chances are, you got at least one of them.

Online phishing scams are dangerous enough to drain people’s bank accounts by tricking people in to giving up their financial information.

Austinites lost $75,000 to scammers last year, so don’t fall for a phishing message. Arm yourself — or a loved one — with knowledge.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be wary of sending cash through PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, CashApp or wire transfers, especially if you don’t know the person or organization.
  • Don’t click any suspicious links, especially if they come from an unidentified phone number or email address.
  • Don’t provide personal information, unless you initiated the call, text, or email.
  • Never share passcodes or passwords.
  • Be careful about responding to requests for upfront fees, unless the transaction was initiated by you.
  • When in doubt, call the official organization’s line and ask if they contacted you.

These are some of the most common scams in the Austin area:

  • Online purchases, especially from sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
  • Employment, which will often be disguised as a job application or a faux message from a highly-ranked person at your company.
  • Emails or texts disguised as a well-known business, like Netflix or Chase Bank.
  • Sweepstakes or contests, which will often ask victims to pay “taxes” upfront on winnings.
  • Debt collection, which will often ask for an immediate payment over the phone.

Explore the Better Business Bureau to stay up-to-date on current scams.