Online Scams on the Rise in New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the most targeted states by online scammers, with recent reports indicating that the state lost $98.7 million to digital fraudsters.

Online Scams on the Rise in New Jersey: Common Types and Prevention Tips

New Jersey is one of the most targeted states by online scammers, with recent reports indicating that the state lost $98.7 million to digital fraudsters. It’s sad to see victims losing their life savings and others even going to the extent of committing suicide largely due to a lack of awareness on how to detect and avoid these scams.

For that reason, we thought it wise to prepare this resourceful guide to shed more light on the State of Internet Scams 2021. In this section:

  • Top five most common online scams in New Jersey
  • How to detect online scams
  • How to prevent online scams

So let’s get this show on the road, shall we?

Top 5 Most Common Online Scams in New Jersey

As a New Jersey resident, you need to watch out for these five online scams, as they have been the most reported to the Police Department in recent years:

1. Investment Scams

Investment scams are where fraudsters dupe you or your business to subscribe to fake investments in the promise of a more lucrative financial opportunity. Most scams of this nature usually involve shocks, notes, bonds, commodities, real estate, or currency. The most common methods used by investment scammers include:

  • Phishing – where scammers target unsuspecting victims by sending them malicious emails with fake websites, posing as reputable figures or businesses. The scammer then hopes that the victim clicks the link to provide their personal or financial info unknowingly.
  • VoIP phone calls – where the investment fraudsters target victims by calling them while posing as representatives of their local banks or any other trusted institution. They then ask the victims to provide their personal info, which they later use to drain their bank accounts.

2. Grandparent Scams

In a grandparent scam, fraudsters first review phone books, looking for familiar old people’s names, like Dolores, Ruth, or Ethel. But sometimes, they take their chances by using random numbers. The next stage is where the scammer calls the victim, posing as their grandchild. But that’s not all; the primary agenda of the call is to dupe the victim into believing that they’re in urgent trouble, say involving a robbery, an accident, or an arrest, and they need money for bail or attorney services.

But you’re probably thinking, isn’t a grandparent sound enough to recognize their grandchild’s voice? Well, the scammer has that figured out, and they usually use such tactics as “my voice sounds a little different as I have suffered a fractured jaw in the accident.” And to sum up the scam, the criminals often ask the victims not to tell anyone else about the incident, especially not their parents, not to freak them out.

3. Government Imposter Scams

Government imposters are another fast-emerging category of scammers in New Jersey that you should watch out for. In this fraud, con artists use the names of state agencies – like the New Jersey Department of Education – to dupe victims into becoming exposed to identity theft.

Scammers usually use phone calls, emails, or old-school mail to get in touch with their targets. They then make up a story that entices the victims to wire them money or provide their personal info. They usually thrive on urgent stories that trigger the “you must act now!” button. For example, while posing as an officer from the Department of Education, they may dupe the victim into believing that there are limited slots for college tuition sponsorship, so they need to provide a registration fee to reserve their place.

4. PSE&G Scams

Businesses and sometimes individual residents are usually the most targeted by this scam. Essentially, a PSE&G scam involves a con artist calling your business or home while posing as a PSE&G (or any other utility company) representative. The scammer then slaps you with the news that your utility is due and your service is about to get disrupted.

Afraid that you may lose your business revenues and productivity hours due to a power outage, you decide to pay the victim directly to prevent the impending disruption – a colossal mistake! As soon as you show the willingness to pay, the fraudster chooses to capitalize on that and send more threats and excuses to exploit you further.

5. Customer Service Scams

Customer service scams take a different route from most other frauds because it’s the victim that reaches out to the con artist and not the other way around. How so? Well, these scammers usually post fraudulent customer care numbers online for reputable online companies like Netflix. So when you need to call customer service, you may browse the internet for phrases like “Netflix customer care number.”

Although these companies have their legitimate contact info on their homepages, it’s not surprising that you may bump into the scammer’s version of the customer service number either by chance or due to how the search engine algorithm works. Once you call these illegitimate numbers, the scammers find the opportunity to dupe you into providing confidential details like bank accounts, phone numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

How to Detect Online Scams

Here are some red flags that should raise your eyebrows:

  • High-pressure tactics. This is most common a grandparent scam. No emergency needs to be resolved in 30 seconds. After all, the police department, hospital, law firm, etc., will still be there the following day. So if they’re genuinely in trouble, they should have no problem waiting.
  • The caller’s location. In an investment scam, for example, always demand that you meet the purported “investor” in person. If they’re legitimate and within New Jersey, they should have no problem arranging a physical meetup. If they state otherwise, forfeit the deal.
  • Payment method. Scammers usually prefer untraceable payment methods like bitcoin, gift cards, wire transfers, etc. So always push for a cash-only deal and demand that you meet physically in a public place.
  • Poor grammar. If you receive an email or phone call from a person who makes blatant typos or spelling errors, that’s a red flag. While there’s no law requiring New Jersey residents to be native English speakers, you should cut the conversation if the caller asks for your confidential information like the social security number.

How to Prevent Online Scams

Below are five actionable tips to help you avoid online fraud:

  • Set strong passwords. A password is deemed strong with at least eight characters and a mix of special characters, numbers, lower case, and uppercase letters.
  • Keep your personal data private. Scammers tend to use your social media profiles to crack your passwords and answer the security questions required to reset passwords. So avoid including details like phone numbers, addresses, birthdays, etc., on your profiles.
  • Shop safely. Online shopping has become popular lately, providing scammers with an avenue to target unsuspecting shoppers. So before shopping, ensure the online store is HTTPS secured and confirm that a tiny padlock symbol appears on the site’s address bar.
  • Secure your internet connection. Ensure your home and business wireless networks have strong passwords. And if you must use public Wi-Fi, avoid opening your accounts or completing any financial transactions, as scammers are always on the lookout to intercept your valuable data.

Baroan Technologies Can Help!

Hopefully, this in-depth guide was an eye-opener, and you’ll become wearier of common New Jersey online scams. But as a business, it’s not enough to set strong passwords, protect confidential data, secure connections, among other practices. You need to go the extra mile and have a password management strategy, monitor your network 24/7, install & manage firewalls, keep software up-to-date, etc. That’s where we come in handy!

Baroan Technologies is a reliable IT service and cybersecurity company in New Jersey. We take pride in helping local businesses stay immune from online scams and other security risks through proactive detection and prevention solutions. So contact us now, and let us protect your business against digital scams!

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Written by Guy Baroan