Never Wire Money – Scammers often require victims to use MoneyGram or Western Union to pay fees to receive phony sweepstakes winnings, participate in deceptive mystery shopper “jobs,” buy merchandise online, and a multitude of other fraudulent offers. Money transfer services are not able to retrieve wired funds if you discover you’ve been scammed.
Throw Away Checks from Unfamiliar Companies – The use of counterfeit checks in sweepstakes and mystery shopper job offers increased dramatically during 2008. You are instructed to deposit the check, then wire all or most of the funds to the scammer. If you fall for this one, you’ll be notified by your bank within several weeks that the check was counterfeit and you must return the funds to the bank.
Do not use Advanced Fee Lenders – If you are strapped for cash, don’t be tempted by offers of easy money, regardless of your credit history. Deceptive advanced fee loan offers abound online that require you to send money for the promise of a loan. Advanced fee loans are illegal and should be avoided.
Don’t Fall for the Quick Fix – There is no over the counter pill or potion, or any hocus pocus that will instantly melt pounds away and magically cure your nicotine cravings. Check with your physician before succumbing to the latest diet craze or smoking cessation program.
Beware the Bogus Buyer (or Seller) – If you are selling merchandise online, do not fall for e-mails from overseas buyers who are willing to send you checks for more than the cost of the item. You will be told to deposit the check and wire the difference back to the buyer. The check will be counterfeit and you will lose any funds you wired as well as any merchandise you sent to the buyer.
Don’t be Worked Over by Phony Job Offers – Mystery shoppers, reshipping services, payment processors, security guards to the rich and famous – these and many more phony job offers await the unsuspecting job seeker. Avoid any position that requires you to pay an upfront fee; deposit a check and use the funds to do mystery shoppings; accept packages or checks that you will resend to a third party; or purchase instructions or kits to do work at home.
Protect your Privacy – Do not give your Social Security number, credit card account numbers, bank account numbers or other personal information to strangers. If you receive an e-mail, phone call or text message on your cell phone from someone claiming to represent your bank who is requesting this type of information due to a “security breach”, “lost records” or other excuse – don’t believe it. Contact your bank directly and ask if the call or e-mail is really from them. Chances are, it won’t be. It is just a clever attempt to get your private information and steal your identity.
Get on the Do Not Call List – You can limit the number of telemarketing calls you receive by placing your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. You can register your phone number at www.DoNotCall.gov, or by calling 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the number you wish to register. If you register online, you must click on the confirmation email you receive to complete your free registration. Your registration will not expire. Be sure your parents or senior friends and neighbors register their phone numbers, too.
Check with the BBB – Too many times, consumers contact the BBB after they’ve already fallen victim to a scam. Check out companies and charities with the BBB before making purchase or donation decisions. Information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.bbb.org.