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The Latest Scams You Need to Be Aware of in 2021

By: Louis DeNicola - Experian

Published: May 5, 2021

The Latest Scams You Need to Be Aware of in 2021

Scammers continue to prove that there's no rest for the wicked. While their goals remain the same—get your personal information and money—their strategies are constantly changing with the times. Fraudsters know people are most vulnerable when they're desperate or scared, and use crises and pressure tactics to prey on victims.

Many of the latest schemes are twists on existing scams. That's good news for you, as the measures that have protected you for years can still apply. However, you also want to watch out for the latest developments, particularly when they involve new technology.

Coronavirus, Vaccine and Government Program Scams

Scammers are using the ongoing pandemic as the hook for a variety of scams. These range from selling fake N95 masks to vaccine-related scams, such as offering spots on a priority list. There have also been bogus surveys that gather personal information and fake charities collecting donations from victims.

Government relief programs are commonly beleaguered by scams, and the government response to the pandemic is no exception. Stimulus checks, talk of student loan forgiveness and tax changes can all be woven into scammers' messaging. Fraudsters even used a government program that helps pay funeral expenses as the basis for a scam. And expanded unemployment benefits have led to an increase in fraudulent unemployment benefit claims.

For more information, explore what government agencies have published on the topic of scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a coronavirus page with updated news and scam alerts. The IRS also maintains a list of tax-related scams and consumer alerts.

Phone-Related Scams

Scammers may try to get in touch with you by phone, and some phone scams rely on smartphones' capabilities to access the internet and install malware.

  • Robocalls: Robocalls have people's phones ringing nonstop with increasingly natural-sounding recorded voices offering everything from auto warranties to vacations, and issuing threats. Some systems can even respond to your questions.
  • Texts: You may receive a text message from an unknown number or email address. Often, these smishing attempts include a link to a website or app.
  • Impersonators: Scammers impersonate IRS personnel, police, survey takers, relatives, delivery people and well-known companies to threaten you or gain your trust. They use scare tactics related to your Social Security number, criminal record or account before asking for your personal, account or credit card information.
  • Apps: Scammers may try to get you to install a malicious app to steal your information. Or, rip off existing apps and then make money from in-app purchases.
  • QR codes: QR codes have gained popularity as a touchless option to do things like read a restaurant menu or make a payment during the pandemic. However, scammers place their QR codes in inconspicuous spots, and scanning the code could prompt you to make a small purchase or enter your credentials on a look-alike website.

Cryptocurrency Scams

As cryptocurrencies continue to buzz, people may fear missing out on their chance to get rich. The scams can take different forms but often involve fake prizes, contests, giveaways or early investment opportunities. The scammers may impersonate celebrities or popular cryptocurrency websites to lure victims into sending them money or sharing login information.

Romance Scams

While romance scams aren't new, they're increasingly popular. According to the FTC, people lost $304 million to romance scams in 2020, up from $75 million in 2016.

Scammers often steal someone's identity or create fake profiles on dating and social media apps to meet victims. There's no surefire method to detect a fake, although scammers may use attractive photos and avoid meeting in person—many use the coronavirus as an excuse.

After gaining your trust, they'll ask you to buy them something or send them money. Or, the person may "mistakenly" send you money and ask you to send it back or forward it to someone else. If your bank later determines that their payment was fraudulent, you'll be out the cash they sent you as well as whatever money you sent out.

Romance scams can target anyone, and some scammers form platonic rather than romantic relationships.

Online Purchase Scams

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report lists online purchase scams as the scam that posed the biggest risk to consumers in 2020. The basic premise of this type of scam is that you purchase a product or service that's never delivered.

Some coronavirus and vaccine scams are a type of online purchase scam. However, the BBB found that pets and pet supplies accounted for over a third of online purchase scams in 2020.

Often, these scammers sell goods on marketplace websites or social media, although some set up fake ecommerce stores. Paying with a credit card can help you limit potential losses, as you can initiate a chargeback if you don't receive a product or service.

Employment Scams

Employment scams use enticing, and hard-to-detect, lures to target people who've been out of work. Some scammers take a slow approach with interviews and a legitimate-seeming operation. They then collect personal information from your employment forms, or tell you to buy equipment or training.

Other scams get right to the point and promise guaranteed or easy income—if you purchase their program. Sometimes, a fake employer sends a large paycheck and asks you to send the "extra" back—a play on the popular overpayment scam.

Travel Scams

You may want to be extra cautious of travel-related scams in 2021. Offers to buy low-cost vacations, join a vacation club or become a travel agent to access deals can be tempting, but you might not get any real benefit in return. Or, you'll wind up paying extra taxes and fees when you want to book a trip.

Basic Steps to Avoid Getting Scammed

While scammers' delivery methods and messaging can quickly change, a few basic security measures can help protect you from the latest and most common scams:

  • Be skeptical when someone contacts you. Scammers can spoof calls and emails to make it look like they are coming from different sources, including government agencies, charities, banks and large companies. Don't share personal information, usernames or passwords that others can use to steal your identity.
  • Research companies. Before you make a purchase or donation, take a few minutes to review the company. Do a web search for its name plus "scam" or "reviews" and research charities on Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.
    • Be careful with your phone. If you suspect a spam call, don't respond or press a button. The safest option is to hang up or ignore the call entirely. You can always look up the organization and initiate a call yourself if you're worried there may actually be an issue.
    • Don't refund or forward overpayments. Be careful whenever a company or person asks you to refund or forward part of a payment. Often, the original payment will be fraudulent and taken back later.
    • Look for suspicious payment requirements. Scammers often ask for payments via wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrency or gift cards. These payments can be harder to track and cancel than other forms of payment, which can leave you stuck without recourse.

    If you're the victim of a scam, you can file a report with the FTC and law enforcement. The report may help others avoid similar scams.

Continue Monitoring Your Identity

Following basic safety strategies and reviewing the latest scam alerts can help you stay safe. But mistakes happen, particularly when you're stressed or overwhelmed. Even if you're doing everything right, your information could be compromised in a data breach.

Sign up for free credit monitoring to get alerted when there are unexpected changes in your credit report, which could help you quickly respond to some types of fraud. Additionally, an identity theft monitoring service, such as Experian IdentityWorksSM, will look for your personal information in more databases and on the dark web. It also comes with identity theft insurance, which can help cover the cost of recovering from identity theft.


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It's your staff that make us keep coming back for years and years.

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I joined USSFCU in 1993. I had just started a job as Executive Assistant to a U.S. Senator and being a Black Woman, I felt intimidated and not always accepted in the Senate environment. The one place I felt truly welcomed and comfortable was in the credit union. The staff was professional, courteous and made me feel at home the minute I walked in ...

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Happy 85th from a 53-year member. I remember when the credit union was located adjacent to the barbershop in the basement of the Old Senate Office Building. Great service then! Great service now!

I work in-state but your agency has made it so easy to do business with in many ways. I have a VISA, checking, savings etc. with you and even when I call from Ohio, everyone is so helpful and eager to help. Thank you and Happy Anniversary.

My 38th year as a USSFCU member! I love the personalized service and your kindness over the years. Happy 85th Anniversary!

My first job in Washington was at NRSC which came with Senate FCU privileges. That was in 1989 - I left DC in 1995 and to this day I love the reaction when people see the senate emblem on my credit card and checks.

I joined right after college after accepting my fist job in the USS; now 26 years later, I'm still a member and so happy with your products and service! Congratulations on 85 years of doing right by your members!

As a member of USSFCU since 1967, I can remember when it consisted of one room in the basement of the Russell Building. Congratulations!

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I have been a member of USSFCU for sixty years and it is still my financial institution of choice. Their service is exceptional and their staff is friendly and helpful.

I was a senate page and messenger for the sergeant of arms when I was 15. 43 years later I'm still a member. I could find no better place to bank despite overseas military serves. Simper Fi! Works here also.

Happy 85th Anniversary USSFCU. I have been a member since I began working for Senator Alan Cranston (Democrat from California) in 1982. Although, I left the Senate when Senator Cranston left office, I have remained a member of the United States Senate Federal Credit to this day. I have had nothing but positive service from USSFCU and will continue ...

More than 20 years with the USSFCU. I am grateful for their friendship. Happy Anniversary!

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It's hard to believe how much we've been through since we got together in 1972- two children with accounts, cars, home improvements. I don't know what I would have done without you.

Happy Anniversary to our wonderful family! Wishing you many more years of accomplishments!

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My 85 year old mom was born on October 8, 1935... exactly when USSFCU was founded! How's that for karma!!

Happy anniversary United States Senate Federal Credit Union. I love my credit union and the great rates with Visa and car loans. Hoping to refinance my home soon with y'all. My birthday is October 8 and I'll be 57, to think that USSFCU was already 28 years old when I was born. That's amazing keep the good work up.

Thank to the entire USSFCU Team. My every interaction with all of you has been kind and efficient. I appreciate all our your efforts to make our days a little easier and brighter!

Congratulations to USSFCU for 85 years of service...I joined when the Credit Union was just a room in the basement of the Russell Building nearly 50 years ago.

Congratulations Senate Federal Credit Union on celebrating 85 years! I have been blessed to be a member since 1998! I also had the great honor and pleasure to support the Hart Branch of the USSFCU while an employee of the Senate Sergeant at Arms Operations Division! The Hart Branch of the USSFCU has the kindest, friendliest, most professional emplo...

I started in the Senate in 1977. I was in need of a car and had just a few hundred dollars to my name since coming from Minnesota. My boss told me about the Credit Union and walked me over to the Russell building and introduced me to Virginia P. where I joined and she gave me a loan for 1600.00 to buy a car that afternoon.

Congrats! USSFCU has been a reliable financial partner for my family saving me on fees and with low car and personal loan rates. On to the next 85 years!

Thank you for your wonderful service. I joined in 1989 when working for Senator Cochran.

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Wishing you a most happy 85th Anniversary. You provide excellent service!

Congratulations to USSFCU on 85 years of service to the community.

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Happiest of anniversaries to a super credit union. You have given us kind, faithful service. May you be richly blessed in return.

Our family really appreciates all the services the credit union has to offer. We have financed (and re-financed) our mortgage, opened retirement accounts, and established our kids' first bank accounts with USSFCU. Thanks for all that you do!

Thank You for being there through all of these years.

Been a member for more than 50 years. Congratulations!

Happy Anniversary. Keep up the great Union benefits.

I've been a member since I first moved to the area and wouldn't change a thing!

When I became part of the Senate staff it was clear many new doors would open. One, to ussfcu, has remained so for many (about 50 or more) years, helping us through small and larger problems, We have used, enjoyed and appreciated their services.

I've enjoyed banking with USSFCU over the years! It was helpful for managing my money for everything from grad school to my first home to my kids!

A colleague told me she was getting a higher than average interest rate on her savings. I said, "That's the bank for me!"

Congratulations on 85 years. Opening a USSFCU account was one of the very first things I did when I started working on Capitol Hill 20 years ago and I?ve never looked back. It?s my primary bank account to this day. Best wishes for the next 85 years.

Happy 85th. I joined at age 16 in 1979 when I started what turned out to be a full career with the Senate. Things certainly have changed as USSEFCU grew and dropped the "E".

The USSFCU has always been there for me. The staff has shown nothing but professionalism.

Congratulations on 85 years of service to the Congressional community!

I had just graduated from college mid-year and moved to DC from the Midwest in January 1982. One of the first things I was told to do after starting work in the Senate was to open an account at the credit union. I did, and despite the fact that my boss lost in 1984, I have kept my account. The credit union helped me buy my first car. Lots of great ...

It?s a Happy Anniversary for all USSCU members thanks to the 85 years of wonderful and thoughtful service!!! I still love my classic checks! Happy Anniversary!

Happy 85th Anniversary USSFCU! I have been a member since 1983 and I appreciate the tremendous service that I have received throughout my 37 year membership. Keep up the great work!

Ever since I joined in 2011, I've experienced nothing but superior service from USSFCU! From teller assistance to phone conversations, I have never been disappointed. I've banked with many different institutions but I can never see myself leaving USSFCU. Thanks so much!

Happy 85th birthday to an incredible credit union who is always looking out to its members each and every year. Congratulations on this milestone!

Congratulations USSFC! Great customer service. A first class organization!

Very thankful of the stability provided by the USSFCU in these crazy times. Wishing you all safety and love and Happy Anniversary.

Congratulations USSFCU!!! I am a long time member, not only because it is convenient but because of the great service from Credit Union staff. Friendly efficient service from staff at the Hart, Alexandria and GAO locations always comes with a smile. I can't wait for the next annual meeting. Thanks and looking forward to another 85 years.

Thanks to the USSFCU I was able to receive a car loan after years of bad credit. This is a wonderful institution.

Happy Anniversary! Thank you for all that you do. We love our new pool!

I worked in the Senate for 23 years and it was so convenient to dash down to the Credit Union. Following that, I went to the State Department to work for a senior official. My contact from the Credit Union (Dana) was extraordinarily helpful in all things money-related for my "Principal" and for me. I couldn't have managed nearly as well as I did wi...

Thank you for serving the community. It is a pleasure and a joy to say I am a member.

Congratulations USSFCU! I appreciate your efforts to expand services and protect your membership here and abroad.

As a member for more than 40 years, I am thrilled that the USSFCU has reached this milestone, and I wish continued success in the next 85!!!

I have been a member for 40 years and it is one (1) of the best decisions I have ever made for my financial future. Greta, was my 1st teller and has continued to be a very supporting advisor throughout all these years..Happy Anniversary to all your members.

The USSFCU has ALWAYS given me and my family the best service for the last 20 years. I would never switch my banking to any place else. They?re the best!

Eighty-five years is about a lifetime. That's how long we can depend on USSFCU to be with us in good times and bad - for a lifetime.

Estoy muy contento ...

Congrats on making it to 85 and still giving the 3S: Stability, Security, Service and do add Satisfaction

Happy Anniversary! 85 years of helping people fulfill their financial goals, woohoo!!!

I just heard! Is it true? Eighty-five years... Whoop-de-do!

USSFCU has been a great resource for this service disabled Vet - thank you & happy anniversary!!!

Happy 85 Anniversary, I thank for the great job you guys always do, Thanks for allowing me to be part of your family.

Awesome to be celebrating my 25th year Silver anniversary with my credit union spouse the same week that USSFCU is celebrating 85. Much love and gratitude.

A credit union is the financial bestie for working people. I was employed as a credit union rep for 9 years. I promoted legislation to save credit unions as a Us Senate staff representative. Credit unions know who we are as people. I salute the services and dedication of 85 years non stop from the UNITED STATES SENATE FEDERAL CREDIT UNION. Please g...

It?s not just a corporate anniversary, it is an anniversary of a family and community that has grown stronger over the years. USSFCU started with a few but now there are many, not only in numbers but also in engagement, resources, and talents. Wishing you many more years of unparalleled service and success. Happy 85th anniversary USSFCU!

Congratulations from Michigan. Many more successful years ahead.

Happy Anniversary! Your dedicated customer service, both in person and by phone, is greatly appreciated. Thanks for doing it right!

Happy 85th anniversary USSFCU. Thank you for your service! I appreciate the credit union so much.

Congrats! Thanks for being my bank for 42 years!

Have been a happy USSFCU member since the 1980's!

Cheers to our Credit Union on its 85th! Proud to be a Member! Being part the USSFCU has special meaning for me because the first Federally-chartered credit union in the United States was in my hometown: Texarkana, Texas (Morris Sheppherd FCU, in 1934). In addition, a huge influence in my future life in Washington was Congressman Wright Patman, who ...

Happy anniversary USSFCU! I've been a member for 30 years (I'm pretty sure). It's been a great convenience having you in the building, and everyone is always super nice. Thank you!

Thank you for all of your great support over the years! It's nice to call and get similar voices, too, so that means you take care of your employees. Keep up the good work!

2 years ago my dream of owning my own pool came true! Thanks to USSFCU we were able to put in a pool, making my childhood dream come true! Today my children enjoy the pool all the time! Thank you and happy anniversary!!

Happy 85th Anniversary! I have been with the USSFCU since the 80's when I first started working as a teenager. Many loans, careers, military service and years later I am still here despite attempts by other institutions to gain my business. The USSFCU has always been fair, reasonable and looked out for my family and I.

It's been a pleasure banking you'll for nearly 20 years starting with a young savers account. You'll have great rates and the new learning tools are just amazing keep up the great work.

Happy Anniversary! I've been a member over two decades and appreciate the ease of banking and excellent customer service I?ve always received. Cheers to 85 more years!

USSFCU was my first bank - I can remember back in 1998 when I deposited my first check! I have continued to rely on USSFCU for all my banking needs throughout my life milestones and look forward to the future.

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