Protect yourself & your loved one’s from being scammed

Many of us know people who have been the victim of a scam artist or scheme.  My father, before he passed, was one such victim.  I did not know it was going on, heck, no one in the family knew it was happening until one day I get a call from his bank advising me that he was attempting to withdraw large sums of money out of an account that we had recently switched to both our names.  The bank was under no obligation to call me, but I’m sure glad they did.  Unfortunately, it was a day late and more than a dollar short.  After contacting my mother I was able to determine that he had sent over $100,000 to these scam artists.  I immediately went into protection mode, but a lot of these individuals/groups are outside the jurisdiction of the United States, so very little can be done.

Really the only way to protect yourself or your loved one’s against this type of thing is to be prepared.  The FTC has some very simple guidelines and advise that I outline below. Remember, nothing is more important than talking to friends &/or family about these things.  It’s one thing to be embarrassed, it’s a complete other thing to give away your life savings.  Don’t get fooled.  Protect yourself.

The scam truck

The scam truck (Photo credit: jepoirrier)

BEWARE. . .

  • Beware of high pressure sales tactics offering to sell you products at reduced prices, or secret deals, or no-risk high yield investments! Don’t spend a dime until you check on the company first!
  • Beware of anyone posing as a government or company official asking your help to “catch a criminal!” Call the police immediately — it’s a trick.
  • Beware of ANY OFFER from ANYONE who promises — if you send a contribution — to fight for you to make sure you keep receiving your Social Security check or Medicare coverage!
  • Beware of anyone who offers to do home remodeling work for you who comes to your door unsolicited or who calls you on the phone. Check these people out.
  • Beware of any organization that can’t provide references. Ask for contact information and then verify that the organization is legitimate.

NEVER. . .

  • Never reveal (all or part of) your creditcard number, Social Security number, or bank account number to ANY CALLER for ANY REASON! 
  • Never hire people to build or repairanything until you check on them and the quality of their work first! Tell them you want references. If they refuse . . . call someone else! 
  • Never pay for ANYTHING you didn’torder yourself, regardless of what you are told by the company or anyone! 
  • NEVER talk about your money with a stranger and NEVER, NEVER keep or hide large amounts of money in your home. A robber or burglar will most probably find it.

DON’T. . .

  • Don’t be fooled by anyone offering a refund information service to obtain a return of your money lost in a previous consumer trap! This new angle is just the latest con game.
  • Don’t tell anyone you live alone.
  • Don’t admit any strangers to your home — NO MATTER THE REASON — NO MATTER HOW INSISTENT THEY ARE. Check on them first, even call the police, if necessary!
  • Don’t be over-generous. Giving to charities is an admirable quality. But sometimes, if you give too much, too often, to these organizations, you could become a charity case yourself!

IF/WHEN . . .

  • If you receive a post card or letter marked “Official Notification,” or “Final Notice,” or “48 Hour Notice,” informing you that you are a contest winner, but you must call a 1-800 number to receive a “free” gift, BE CAREFUL. That “gift” might cost YOU money in the end!
  • If notified you are a winner in a contest, BUT to receive the prize you must send money to cover the tax and the handling fee, save your money! The value of the “prize” may not match the amount you have to pay!
  • There are both Pennsylvania and Federal law restrictions regulating 900 numbers. Intrastate calls (usually 970 or 976) require cost disclosures at the start of the call. Federal and state laws prohibit phone companies from disconnecting service for unpaid 900 number charges.
  • The Federal Trade Commission is a resource for information about possible consumer fraud. Seewww.ftc.gov or call (877) 382-4357
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