How to Avoid Being Scammed

Every day, con artists and scammers attempt to victimize millions of American consumers.  When they succeed, these crimes can seriously affect the lives of their victims, their families, and ultimately each and every one of us.

Many fraudulent offers can be identified and prevented before they can cause any damage.  Here are some basic fraud prevention tips as well as guidance on how to report swindles when you spot them.

Warning Signs

  • Sounds too good to be true.
  • Pressures you to act "right away." 
  • Guarantees success.
  • Promises unusually high returns.
  • Requires an upfront investment - even for a "free" prize.
  • Buyers want to overpay you for an item and have you send them the difference.
  • Doesn't have the look of a real business.
  • Something just doesn't feel right.

Play It Safe

  • Never click on a link inside an e-mail to visit a website.  Type the address into your browser instead.
  • It's easy for a business to look legitimate online.  If you have any doubts, verify the company with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Retain your receipts, statements and packing slips.  Review them for accuracy.
  • Shred confidential documents instead of simply discarding them in the trash.

Fraud Facts

  • Your bank will never e-mail or call you for your account number.
  • Don't wire money to people you don't know.
  • Be cautious of work-at-home job offers.
  • Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
  • There are no legitimate jobs that involve reshipping items or financial instruments from your home.
  • Foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S.  You can't win no matter what they say.
  • Check your monthly bank statement for charges you don't recognize.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus once a year (additional tip: get one every 4 months instead of all 3 at one time).

Phishing E-mails:

  • Unlike phishing emails, banks or legitimate businesses will never ask you to verify personal information in response to an email.
  • Most fake communications convey a sense of urgency by threatening discontinued service. 
  • Many fraudulent e-mails contain misspellings, incorrect grammar, and poor punctuation.
  • Links within the fake email may appear valid, but deliver you to a fraudulent site.
  • Phishing e-mails often use generic salutations like “Dear Customer,” or “Dear account holder” instead of your name. 
  • The address from which the e-mail was sent is often not one from the company it claims to be.

Get Involved

  • It's never too early to become an informed consumer.  Point out "too good to be true" offers to your kids and teach them to be skeptical.
  • Take an active interest in the financial activities of your aging parents.
  • Share information about scams with friends and family.

 Any suspicious e-mails should be forwarded to the fraud department of the actual company the e-mail claims to be from (check the company's website).

If you've received a suspected fraud through the U.S. Mail, or if the mail was used in furtherance of a crime that began on the internet, telephone or in person, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  You can also visit their fraud website for more information: Fraud Tips and Prevention 

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, works to prevent fraud and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid it.