Well disguised scams come at you from all directions – the internet, mail, even face-to-face contact. Scammers change tactics constantly in order to lure victims into their schemes. Understanding the biggest scams will help you avoid them.
•Easy money is the oldest and still the best hook scammers use to lure victims. “International Lottery Winner”, “Money Escrow”, “Check Cashing”, “Nigerian Scams” are all classic “easy money” scams that claim thousands of victims each year. The promise of quick and easy money is hard to pass up, especially in these economic times, but remember, there is no such thing as easy money. In the end only the scammer makes the money. Run, do not walk, away from plans that promise you much money for little work.
•Fear is the most effective means scammers use to force victims to make fast and disastrous decisions. Fear has proved especially effective against senior citizens insecure about their financial future. Claims that your bank account has been “hacked” and demanding account information quickly in order to “save” it are common. Most of these come under the guise of your bank’s letterhead or service mark. If you receive a regular mail, email or a phone call claiming your account has been hacked, immediately contact your bank independently and inquire about your account. Do not use a provided reply envelope, reply email website or telephone patch through to contact your bank. These are part of the scam.
•Confusion goes hand in hand with fear as an effective way to make victims act quickly. Again, these scammers often target the elderly who may be easily confused and manipulated. When contacted by a stranger or in an unusual way with a demand that you act promptly, protect yourself by immediately breaking contact or by calling a trusted friend to discuss the matter before taking any action.
•Faith and charity are the best human traits, but ones that scammers often rely on to bilk their victims. Do not make donations or offer assistance to “churches” or “charities” unknown to you who email, call or show up at your home uninvited. Never make a donation to a church or charity that you are not familiar with, no matter how compelling their “story”.
•Jobs are difficult to find in a slow economy. Scammers use the promise of work to bilk individuals desperate for employment. Do not pay money to apply for a job! Do not give personal information to a “prospective employer” over the phone, mail or online. This is a major source of information for identity thieves. When you are contacted about an employment opportunity, meet with the prospective employer in person at their place of business and do some research on the employer before providing any personal information.