BBB Advises: When it Comes to Scams, Here's How to Avoid Being an "April Fool"

If you haven't already, chances are good that you'll have a run-in with a scammer.
March 29, 2014

If you haven't already, chances are good that you'll have a run-in with a scammer.  It might be a phishing email asking you to click on a link, a phone call telling you your computer has been compromised, or a contractor who shows up at your door ready to trim your trees.  

Scams are everywhere.  Each and every day, scammers are finding new and clever ways to cheat people out of their hard-earned money. While the scams are constantly changing, the characteristics of a scam victim remain fairly constant. Understanding what scam victims have in common can help you avoid being an "April Fool" and falling for the next scam that comes your way.

Here's what many scam victims have in common...

  • They take someone at their word. They don't do their homework, ask questions, or check with the BBB.  Even if a company states they are “with the BBB,” check it out!
  • They let themselves get emotional.  They are often times motivated by fear, greed, romance, or excitement.
  • They act impulsively.  They download files, click on pop-up ads, sign-up for trial offers and open emails from unknown senders. 
  • They are afraid of being rude. They don't want to hang up the phone or shut the door.  It’s nice to be nice but better to be protected!
  • They don't dispose of private information correctly. They don't shred personal and financial documents before disposal. Credit card offers received via mail are thrown away without being shredded.  Anything that has your Social Security number, a bank account number or credit card account should be destroyed.  If not, you’re a prime victim for identity thieves.
  • They use the same password for EVERY account.  Birthday, anniversary, kid’s names, never!  Way too easy.  Use symbols along with upper and lower case letters.  Think longer rather than shorter.  AND change your password about every six months.  Keep them guessing!
  • They live alone or are isolated in some way.
  • They are worried about money.  They may have recently lost their job or have increased debt. They may jump at “work-at-home” scams or other business opportunities that sound too good to be true and they are!
  • They don't read the fine print. Perhaps they left their reading glasses at home or simply don’t want to read a lengthy contract. Or in some cases, people simply don’t understand what’s put before them.  STOP!  Never sign any written agreement unless you fully understand every provision.
  • They want so much to believe the lie that they hush the logical "voice of reason" inside them.
  • They rush into decisions.  Impulsive decisions can many times lead to loss of money, identity theft and so much more.  Take your time.  Get advice. Just breathe!
  • They are embarrassed.  They won't tell anyone about being scammed so the scam (and the scammers) continue.
  • They are hesitant to ask questions when making a purchase.  Is the salesperson coming on a bit too strong?  Do you feel pressured or even threatened? Remember, you are in charge! Stand up and walk away.
  • They leave their personal and financial information lying around for all to see.   This type of information should be in a lock box at home or a safety deposit box at your bank.  Or, you can have a trusted family member or friend keep this information safe for you.

Reporting scams helps stop scammers and prevents more victims in the future. Smart people fall victim to scams every day. Awareness and education can help you protect yourself from becoming a victim.