Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Editorial: Scammers hope to have a big 2023. Help stop them.

  • 0

Be skeptical of big promises, don’t disclose personal information, and never agree to purchase gift cards or withdraw money at the behest of a random call or anonymous email.

As crimes such as identity theft, fraud and scams proliferate in frequency and grow annually in severity, there is no better time than now to address this threat and adopt some tried-and-true best practices to guard yourself against those with ill intent.

While figures from 2022 will be released later this year, the Federal Trade Commission’s numbers from 2021 confirm that more Americans than ever have either been the victims of scammers or targets of their nefarious efforts.

The FTC received more than 5.7 million reports in 2021, a staggering total which includes 2.8 million fraud complaints and 1.4 million identity theft reports. Nearly 1 million complaints were “imposter scams” that cost consumers more than $2.3 billion, and fraud accounted for $5.8 billion in financial losses in 2021.

While these crimes should be pursued vigorously by the justice system, that remedy only helps hold fraudsters and scammers accountable for their dastardly acts. Consumers’ goal, then, should be to protect against theft by securing their accounts, being savvy about spotting potential fraud attempts and remaining vigilant throughout the year.

The first, and easiest, way to guard against online theft is to use strong passwords — or, better yet, pass phrases — that can thwart easy hacking. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites and choose complex passwords, with a variety of numbers, letters and symbols, for better protection.

Stop using “123456″ or “password” to secure your accounts. Inexplicably, those are still the most common passwords (which may help explain why fraud is such a problem). And change your passwords regularly; the new year is a great time to conduct a full audit of your passwords.

Email scams and other types of “phishing” accounts are similarly successful because recipients click on email links without considering if they are a threat. It takes a little more time and discipline to read every email thoroughly, but it can prevent a host of headaches down the line. But the FTC report confirms that online scams don’t represent the totality of criminals’ fraud attempts. Email scams can be accompanied by phone calls, which tend to target older Americans. Callers claim the target has been selected as a contest winner or they spin a romantic yarn — anything that exploits emotions for an easy windfall.

It’s an old adage but it holds true: If it sounds too good to believe, it probably is. Be skeptical of big promises, don’t disclose personal information, and never agree to purchase gift cards or withdraw money at the behest of a random call or anonymous email.

If you are the victim of fraud or suspect someone is trying to swindle you, file a report with the FTC at to help protect others.

Scammers will continue to try to find vulnerable targets they can exploit for profit. This year, stand resolute against them by adopting these small changes that can make a big difference in your financial security.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Defense spending is vital to the ensure the nation’s security. But that doesn’t mean the Pentagon should be above budget scrutiny. Far from it, as a recent audit reveals. Last week, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Pentagon cannot account for at least $220 billion in military gear given out to defense contractors. Nor is this a new phenomenon. The report found that the ...

It may seem hard to believe, but there remains a hard-core group of partisans who still insist that a presidential election was stolen and that the victor is “illegitimate.” Perhaps these conspiracy theorists will finally reconsider in the wake of a new study by New York University which concludes that Russian tweets did little to increase Donald Trump’s vote count in the 2016 presidential ...

If President Joe Biden has a coherent strategy for ending the Ukraine war, now would be an opportune time to deploy it. On Wednesday, Biden announced that the U.S. will provide Ukraine with 31 M1A1 Abrams tanks. That’s the U.S.’ main battle tank, which our country has used for four decades. In tandem with Biden’s decision, Germany and other European allies will provide tanks. Politico reported ...

The Virginia General Assembly made history two years ago when it voted to legalize personal cultivation of marijuana and possession of the plant in small amounts, becoming the first state in the South to do so. Unfortunately, the legislation only went halfway. While lawmakers removed criminal punishment for recreational cannabis use, they did not take the necessary steps to establish a ...

The deadly toll of drug overdoses in Virginia just keeps getting worse. It will take a concerted statewide effort at every level — from leaders in Richmond to frontline workers across the state — to reduce the tragic numbers and make 2023 the year that deadly tide starts to turn. The numbers were still climbing in 2021 even though the increase in drug overdose deaths was not as dramatic as the ...

There is a 0% chance that a proposal to eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a massive national sales tax will even get out of the Republican-controlled House, let alone become law. But the fact that such a bluntly soak-the-poor idea is even getting an airing under new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy should stand as ominous confirmation that he is basically a hostage to his ...

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares made a big show of announcing last year that his office had organized an Election Integrity Unit to bring more transparency and accountability to Virginia’s elections. But when asked for documents about the unit — in the interest of transparency and accountability — the AG’s office wanted to charge the Virginia NAACP nearly $20,000 to see them. The group ...

Whether President Joe Biden’s misguided plan to forgive some $400 billion in federal student-loan debt goes forward will ultimately be up to the Supreme Court. For now, there’s more the federal government should be doing to rein in the costs of higher education — and thus reduce how much students borrow in the first place. In particular: It should insist that colleges stop hiding exactly how ...

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both being investigated over their handling of classified materials. While publicly disclosed information reflects that the cases are clearly different, the investigatory processes should not be. To that end, Attorney General Merrick Garland rightly appointed special prosecutors in each instance, including naming Robert Hur — a Trump ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert