You’ve probably had this happen to you at some point: you receive an email that looks somewhat official, telling you that “your bill has been paid.” One of the oldest scams in Internet existence, it still manages to fool people because it looks legitimate. In this format, scammers pretend to be from the electric company, car dealership, or Netflix, telling you “Your bill has been paid” as a way to say you won a prize. The message, which can come via email or text, is then typically followed by a link to claim the prize. It’s clicking this link that allows hackers access to your personal information.
We all like the idea of winning money, but always read carefully before you click anything. Know which companies take automatic withdrawals from your account every month for things like your utility bill, and which ones you pay manually. Have a set schedule for when you pay specific bills so you can know for a fact which ones have been paid already.
In addition, you can protect yourself by knowing the difference between legitimate notices and just another scam.
How To Tell A Scam From The Real Deal
Real companies can and do contact you if a bill is late. Here’s how to tell when a notice is real or fake:
They Ring The Doorbell
A legitimate company will likely contact you in writing about your payment. If they do show up in person, you would be notified with plenty of advance notice. These companies typically make you wait half an hour to speak with a real person, so they probably don’t have time to send people door to door to collect money.
They Demand On-The-Spot Payment
These days, it’s understood that payment over the phone is less secure than paying through a company website. This is where a legitimate employee would direct you to go. If they demand money right then and there, you’re likely being scammed.
They Want Untraceable Currency
If your bill has been “paid” via wire transfer or a prepaid card, that’s a red flag. Most companies won’t accept these because of the difficulty with tracing them. If someone is asking you for a prepaid money card, it’s likely a scam.
They Threaten You
Professionalism is paramount when companies talk to their customers, even over the matter of unpaid bills. If someone on the phone takes a hostile tone with little provocation, consider that a warning sign.
Be Skeptical Of Caller ID
If you receive a phone call claiming to be from a company whose services you use telling you your bill has been paid, it may seem legitimate. After all, your caller ID shows the company name right there on the screen. But be cautious: spamming software has become remarkably sophisticated. It’s pretty easy for anyone to make a call from anywhere, from any number, using any caller ID label they want.
If you receive a call like this, don’t give out any personal information. If you have a gut feeling that it may not be real, look up the company contact information and call them yourself to make sure.
Protect Yourself From Scammers
Anti Fraud News exists to provide you with the information and tools you need to protect yourself from scams. Whether you are young, old, college-educated, working, or retired, scammers are sophisticated enough that anyone can fall for them. If you regularly use dating sites, social media, email, or auction sites, you could also be a target. Knowledge is your best protection to becoming a victim.
Follow our Anti Fraud blog for further information on classic scams, new scams, and what you can do to combat Internet fraud.