Whether it’s for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, another race event elsewhere, or just to stay in shape, thousands of people are making it a point to be active and many are using a fitness tracking app to monitor their activities and to network with other fitness enthusiasts.
There are plenty of benefits to using a fitness app, but unfortunately, there are scammers out there who are trying to utilize that technology to take advantage of people.
According to the Better Business Bureau, an example of one scam involves getting messages from a member of your Fitbit group from a sender who begins by asking about your fitness goals but then transitions into more personal questions. These questions, which could be about your family, where you work, or your hobbies, are an attempt to create a bond. The scammers will also share fake personal stories with you.
Once the bond has developed, they will then ask for money in order to overcome hardships in their lives. These hardships will play on your emotions and the scammers will count on your good nature to take advantage of you.
How do you know if you’re being scammed? The Better Business Bureau says to watch out for the following behaviors:
- Moving fast. Scammers will begin to ask personal questions quickly. (Are you married, where do you work, etc.).
- Emotional stories. The scammer may have a sick, elderly parent or child needing medical care.
- Specific instructions when asking for financial help. The scammer will request you wire money or use a prepaid debit card.
- Ask to communicate differently. As the scammer develops a relationship with a victim, they will ask for a different way to communicate, such as a personal email address or cell number.
The following tips should be followed to avoid becoming a victim of a fitness app scam:
- Do not post a picture of yourself as a profile. Instead, use an avatar or free stock photo to protect your identity. Scammers may be going after a certain group of people, so remain anonymous.
- Do not share personal information such as marital status or employment with a stranger. The less a scammer knows about you the better.
- Think before accepting requests from strangers. Being a part of a community is rewarding but can also be dangerous. It is likely best to only connect with people you know.
- Avoid clicking on unsolicited links. Clicking on a link may lead to downloading malware onto your device which allows scammers to collect your personal information.
It’s also important to reach out to people you trust if you’re feeling uneasy with a new connection made through your fitness app, or through any platform. Your hunch is very likely to be correct, but sharing the questionable communication you’ve received with family or friends will allow you to get their perspective.