Top Tips for Spotting a Scam and Not Becoming a Victim

Know the warning signs of a scam and the red flags to watch out for to avoid being conned

Top Tips for Spotting a Scam and Not Becoming a Victim
Image: NCCC
March 16, 2018

Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to fool their victims in an effort to steal money or sensitive personal information. While there are many different ploys and tactics utilized by these con artists, most scams will typically have several elements in common—and knowing the warning signs and red flags is key.

To ensure that you don't become the next victim of a scam, always keep the following things in mind:

  1. Be wary of "too good to be true." If a deal is significantly better, a price lower, or an offer greater than you can find elsewhere, be cautious. Keep in mind that businesses need to turn a profit. If a company's offer is so amazing that it's not sustainable, it could be a ploy.
  2. Don't underestimate the power of a quick online search. An online search can go a long way in uncovering a con. Chances are that the scam has already fooled other people, and they have posted about it online.
  3. Protect yourself by paying with a credit card, which gives you additional protections such as the opportunity to dispute charges if the business doesn't come through. Be wary of anyone who requests alternative forms of payment, such as wire transfers, pre-paid debit cards, or gift cards.
  4. Never pay up front fees to win a prize or sweepstakes or get a loan. Upfront fees are against the law in North Carolina. Also, never share personal or financial information unless you know who you are speaking with, and why they need that information.
  5. Don't feel pressured if you receive threats of fines or arrest. No law enforcement or government agency, such as the IRS, will call and threaten arrest because they claim you owe money or have broken a law.

  6. Be cautious when responding to telemarketers, door-to-door sellers, and email or text pitches. Instead of responding to unsolicited offers, decide when and where you want to go shopping.

  7. Watch out for a change in routine. If an organization normally reaches you one way, be suspicious if you suddenly start receiving a different type of communication. For example, government agencies generally communicate through mail, but scammers impersonating them often call or send email.
  8. Don't believe what you see. Con artists can spoof phone numbers, email templates, websites, letterhead, and social media accounts. Just because something looks real, doesn't mean it is. Instead of relying on your eyes, look for other warning signs.

It's also a great idea to monitor your credit regularly. You can get a free annual credit report from each of three credit bureaus! Find out more.

For the latest information on current scams that have been reported near you, visit the BBB Scam Tracker.

If you believe that you've been scammed, or if you suspect you've been targeted by a scammer, report it to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.