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In late 1996, moviegoers were greeted by a well-known face, Drew Barrymore, in the opening scene of Wes Craven’s newest horror movie, Scream. Arguably, the most famous of the cast, Barrymore, alone in her house at night, talks on the phone to a caller with a mysterious voice before realizing she is in grave danger. Then, to the shock of spectators, Barrymore falls prey to the hands of the film’s “Ghostface” killer less than 15 minutes into the movie.

Barrymore would later state she felt that scene, seeing the star of the movie suffer an early demise, put the audience on edge by subconsciously introducing the thought that anything could happen… to anyone.

We are wise to apply this same cautionary mindset in today’s world to avoid the myriad of financial scams that lurk at every corner. Instead, we often fall victim to the same naivety as those 1990s moviegoers by believing there is no danger, and even if there was, a financial scam certainly cannot happen to us!

The data says otherwise, as the FTC reported1 early this year that consumer losses due to fraud increased over 30% from 2021-2022 to a staggering total of $8.8 Billion.

Scammers are consistently finding new ways to reel in unsuspecting targets, from phone conversations to text messaging, as well as email and U.S. mail. Some may state they are from a government agency and need your personal information, while others say they are a family member in dire need of quick financial help. Then, others capitalize on a social engineering technique known as “romance scams,” in which they form a relationship with a lonely individual to gain his/her trust and take advantage of them financially.

Avoid the “it can’t happen to me” mindset while also avoiding becoming part of next year’s fraud statistics by remembering these scam survival tips:

  1. Never give out your personal information over the phone. If a supposed government agency or a company for whom you are a customer contacts you, then hang up the phone and call them back using a verified phone number.
  2. Be wary of money inquiries from strangers or family. Artificial intelligence can now allow scammers to spoof both the phone number and the voice of a person with whom you believe you are speaking. Hang up and call the individual back to verify their identity.
  3. Get a second opinion from a trusted family member or friend before sharing information or sending money to a third party (person, company, or government agency).

For additional helpful resources for avoiding scams, see two recent blog posts from my colleagues:

  1. Check Before You Click by Laura K. Rhoades, CFP®
  2. Protecting Parents from Predators by Patti Black, CFP®

Lastly, if horror movies are not your bucket of popcorn, consider curling up on the couch this fall to watch a fascinating National Geographic series on the topic of scams. Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller focuses on scams in Episode 1 of Season 1, which you can find streaming online or at this LINK.

1 https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/02/new-ftc-data-show-consumers-reported-losing-nearly-88-billion-scams-2022

Bridgeworth is a Registered Investment Adviser.

Bridgeworth Wealth Management and National Geographic are separate entities. Neither is an affiliate of the other.

Bridgeworth is now a part of Savant Wealth Management as of 11/30/2023. Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois.