Ways to Avoid Scams in 2020

Learn ways to avoid scams with 5 tips from Capital One’s head of US credit card fraud, Sarah Strauss


Fraudsters have become increasingly sophisticated in how they target their victims. The growing number of digital touchpoints in our lives means more ways to get scammed—and scammers are as polished as ever. They know what to say and how to manipulate situations to make themselves seem legitimate.

From financial scams to identity theft, crooks use false promises and misinformation to trick people. And now, scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation too. Here are five tips from the head of U.S. credit card fraud at Capital One® to help you keep your 2020 scam-free.

1. Use Gift Cards for Gifts, Not Payments

As far as I’m aware, no bank, government agency or legitimate debt collector will ask you to make payments using gift cards. If someone does, that’s a huge red flag. Look up the company or entity online and contact them directly to confirm. Generally, if anyone is asking you to purchase gift cards or use them for payments, you should view that as suspicious.

2. Be Vigilant on Social Media and Across the Web

Fraudsters use social media to target you for your personal information. Never share personal, banking or password information on these platforms. Even a fun quiz that creates your superhero name using your mother’s maiden name can be used to target your accounts! 

And don’t fall for fake merchandise scams. When you see product ads online, beware of low-quality or Photoshopped images. You can use a search engine to look up the company in the ad and see what other customers have to say. In general, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

3. Don’t Be Fooled by Fraudulent Offers

Fraudsters may also try to target you by offering an opportunity to make quick profits for relatively little work. They might promise to make payments to you if you add them as a user and give them access to your account. Or they might ask you to send them money or goods—usually electronics and gift cards—before they make the payments. 

Don’t be fooled—any check you receive or pending payment from them you see in your account will likely bounce. And it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover anything you already sent the fraudster.

4. Protect Your Accounts and Personal Information

There are a number of ways bad actors can target you and your accounts in an attempt to get your personal information. One way is phishing, and Capital One has observed a rise in this over the past few years. 

Phishing is when a fraudster contacts you pretending to represent a trustworthy source, like your bank or other legal entity, and uses what they already know about you to build trust and get more information from you.

When people talk about phishing, they’re often referring to email or internet scams. But scammers may also target you with calls and texts. Text phishing is known as smishing. And phone phishing is sometimes called vishing.

Fraudsters are great at making these situations seem legitimate and pressuring you to act quickly. And spotting the real versus the fake can be hard. 

If a request seems suspicious or you don’t understand why you are getting it, the safest option is to call the company directly at the number listed on their official website or on the back of your credit or debit card. You can also sign in to your digital account to see if there are any security messages. And if you’re worried about credit card fraud, Capital One has security features to help you keep your account safe.

Learn more about how to avoid phishing and protect yourself from scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

5. Stay Up to Date on the Latest Scams 

Scammers are always looking for new opportunities to get your information and money. The confusion and stress surrounding the coronavirus is just the latest. But there are ways you can stay ahead of the game. The Federal Trade Commission keeps a running list of the latest scams. And you can also sign up for the agency’s consumer alerts to help you avoid being scammed.

Avoiding scams takes vigilance and a bit of caution. If you have any scam concerns regarding a Capital One account, please contact us so we can help you resolve them.


Sarah Strauss
Sarah Strauss, Head of US Credit Card Fraud

Sarah Strauss leads the U.S. Credit Card Fraud team at Capital One. Her team is responsible for the development of fraud defenses, fraud-related technology and associated customer experiences. Sarah has been with Capital One for eight years. Prior to her role in Fraud, she held various leadership roles within the U.S. Card business. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children.


Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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