Simple Steps to Avoid the Most Common Scams

By Deven Dighe, Code Ninjas educator and BS/MS Cybersecurity Major at Rochester Institute of Technology

Deven Dighe
Deven Dighe, Code Ninjas educator and BS/MS Cybersecurity Major
at Rochester Institute of Technology

Have you or someone you know fallen prey to a scam? You might be surprised at how common it is! Scammers will trick people into giving them money, access to personal finances, or sharing sensitive information. They’ll often target people who may not be familiar with the signs of a scam and might be more trusting of scammers posing as figures of authority.

PayPal worked together with Code Ninjas to help people spot scams. At Code Ninjas, educators like me help kids learn to code and develop skills to create innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Let’s look at some common scams. Keep in mind, these happen more frequently around high-shopping seasons or holidays. 


Vishing scams

Deven Dighe and participant

In this scam, you’ll typically get a call from someone pretending to be from banks, or a government agency like the IRS. They’ll make up some scenario to get you to give them sensitive personal information, like your bank account and routing numbers, or your Social Security number. They’ll use pressure tactics, like saying you might be arrested for unpaid taxes or fraud within a short time to scare you and make you feel like you have to act quickly.

If you’re getting a call from a number you don’t recognize, the safest thing to do is not pick up. That way, you aren’t flagged as an “impressionable” person for them to keep calling. If you do pick up the call, you can always hang up. You’re under no obligation to keep talking to scammers!

Online ad scams

You might come across ads for nice stuff—think gaming consoles, designer clothes, or even furniture—with prices that seem too cheap to be true. That’s because they are! These scams will also try to trick you by saying that these prices are only for a limited time and that you have minutes to complete the purchase.

Try to only shop from verified, recognizable stores. If you notice misspellings in a product description or a URL address that you don’t recognize, it’s better to play it safe and look elsewhere. If you want to verify that a sale is real, navigate to the store’s official website for verification instead of clicking a suspicious link.

Safe account scams

Woman raising hand

With these types of scams, you might be hit with a text message, email, or phone call from someone at your bank or some other financial services provider. They claim that your accounts have been compromised and that you must quickly move your money to a “safe” account they’ll provide for you.

Like with vishing attempts, these scammers pose as figures of authority from your bank that try to scare you into acting quickly without thinking the situation through. Banks will not call and ask for information that they already know about you, nor will they ask you to move your money. Hang up on a call you’ve received, and if you have any doubts about your account’s safety, call the number on the back of your credit or debit card, or your statement, to speak with an actual representative and get help.

Fake tech support scams

You might get a message or an email from someone pretending to work for well-known tech companies, claiming something is wrong with your device, and that they need remote access to fix it. They might trick you by having you open your computer’s error log and telling you that ordinary computer errors are serious problems that need to be fixed by them.

Computer or software companies won’t contact you to tell you about any problems, nor will they have you call a number and pay for any kind of “antivirus” service. Instead, if you’re concerned about your computer, go to a tech support company or even a relative or friend you know and trust and ask for help.

Staying safe online

To help stay safe from scams, learn how PayPal makes security a priority and keep these three things in mind:

  • Be wary of unsolicited calls, especially from those claiming to be from government or financial institutions.
  • Be careful with deals and offers that seem too good to be true.
  • You can always take time—don’t be pressured or scared into doing things quickly or on the spot.

Also read more about spotting scams, keeping scammers out of your account, spotting a fake PayPal email, staying safe with Passkeys, protecting yourself with PayPal, managing your money with PayPal.

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