Top Tips for Spotting the Red Flags of a Scam and Keeping Your Money and Information Safe
Knowing the warning signs of a scam and the red flags to watch out for can help you avoid being conned of your hard-earned money
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 used by these con artists, most scams will typically have one or more things in common. If you are able to recognize some of the red flags of scams, you'll be in a much better position to stop scammers in their tracks.
- If someone calls you out of the blue and advises you of money being due or requests your personal information, such as your Social Security number, you're likely dealing with a scammer. If these phone calls warn of dire consequences, such as legal action, you're definitely dealing with a scammer.
- If someone insists that you pay a certain way, such as a wire transfer or gift card, get away. It's next to impossible to get money back that has been wired. And gift cards are just like cash. Once you had the card number over, your money is gone. If someone asks you to pay by gift card, you're definitely dealing with a scammer.
- Be wary of "too good to be true." If a deal is significantly better, at a much lower price, or is part of an offer that is much better than you can find anywhere else, be cautious. Keep in mind that businesses need to turn a profit in order to stay in business. If a company's offer is so amazing that it's not sustainable, it could be a scam.
- 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, leading them to post about it online.
- 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.
- Never pay up front fees to win a prize or sweepstakes, to get a loan, or to get a job. 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.
- Don't feel pressured if you receive threats of fines or arrest. No law enforcement or government agency, including the IRS, will call or threaten arrest because you supposedly owe money or have broken a law.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 real.
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.