9 Highly Avoidable Scams

All over the world, many are waiting with bated breath to illegally pad their pockets at the expense of others. Money squandered, shame and regret, scores of people are duped by scam artists; way more than are willing to admit. But, just how do scammers operate? And, what are nine common scams? The answers just might shock you.

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Smishing, not to be confused with phishing is yet another scam.

Reading Between the Lines

We hear a lot of chatter about scams, but let’s first be clear on what a scam truly is. A scam is considered a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation. For the purposes of this article, scams relate to money that can be lost and how to avoid such trickery happening to you. With that, let’s proceed.

1. Everyone knows that most grandmothers have a soft spot in their hearts, for their grandchildren. So, an easy target for scammers is unsuspecting grandmothers. With ‘The Grandma Scam,’ victims are said to receive a call from a “grandchild” in distress at a foreign location. Grandparents then are ordered to wire money to “the police.”

What can I do if in this situation? Though alarmed, the best possible defense is to remain calm until you have more information. Also, demand that the person on the other end of the line tell you your loved one’s name; a key piece of information. Let the caller know that you want to double-check what he/she is saying to you, by calling your daughter or son. More likely than not, you’ll find your grandchild safe and sound.

2. Nigeria, a well-known country in West Africa, also is famous for the ‘The Nigerian Scam.’ Popular since the 1980s, this scam has defrauded countless U.S. consumers. What happens with this scam? By way of email, you discover a wealthy foreign relative has passed away or is trying to redirect funds from a supposed war-torn region. This scam is dangerous because it is explained that you have to give money upfront. What’s more, payment usually occurs through wire transfer; however, sometimes a check is sent. These checks bounce and people lose the cash they wired, all monies sent disappear without a trace.

3. Some really embrace the whole idea of paying-it-forward, that’s exactly why ‘Charity Scams’ are so popular. During a charity scam, scammers pretending to be affiliated with legitimate charities contact you over the phone. Before any cash is handed over, the caller should properly identify himself or herself, give a call back number and identification number just incase you wish to do a little digging. If the person on the other end is in fact affiliated with said organization, giving this information will not be a problem. As always, you can further look into unfamiliar charities online at www.bbb.org/us/charity (Better Business Bureau).

4. Who couldn’t stand to gain a little extra cash these days? The answer: everybody, but, be very wary of ‘Employment/Mystery Shopping Scams.’ You’ll know this scam when you see it, because it calls for an upfront fee, as well. Run in the opposite direction if you come across employment offers that promise exorbitant pay for working just a few hours a day or from your home. Companies that ask for personal or financial information for credit or background checks should be avoided, also.

Know that you never should give out your social security number or bank account numbers over the phone or by email. Such information is personal and should be kept just that: personal.

What about mystery shopping scams? They can work just like lottery scams and overpayment scams. This means that a check is involved along with money wiring. Usually the checks are no good and you’re out any money you send.

Though 100 percent avoidable, scams can be as unique as the individuals who execute them.

Be wary of ‘Employment/Mystery Shopping Scams.’

5. Smishing, not to be confused with phishing is yet another scam. ‘Smishing Scams’ use cell phone text messages to acquire all types of personal information. Scammers swear there’s an issue with your debit or credit card and that there’s a freeze on your account. Bank accounts are not exempt from smishing scams, either.

How can I not be taken by a smishing scam? Refusal to give out personal and/or financial information to unknown parties, will benefit you in more ways than one. Also, never click on any embedded Internet links in unsolicited text messages because you don’t know the source.

6. Ponzi/Pyramid schemes are in a class all by themselves. They commonly are heard of on newscasts and may involve investment tycoons. Ponzi or pyramid schemes actually are investment scams, whereby investors are promised astronomically high profits on their investments. Here’s the catch, no investment ever is made. Early investors are paid returns with the investment money received from the later investors, a system that usually collapses. What generally occurs next? The later investors do not receive dividends and lose their initial investment.

7. It’s your civic duty to report to jury duty when required and those who participate in ‘Jury Duty Scams’ know this. Jury duty scammers prey on law-abiding citizens in the hopes that they will gain valuable information from them. The scene of a jury duty scam looks something like this: Your phone rings, you answer it and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He then informs you that you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. Unaware of what is taking place, you say you never received a notice. In order to clear the situation up, the caller says important information is needed for  “verification purposes.” What information might this be? Your social security number, your birth date and possibly a credit card number. You should hang the phone up right away.

8. ‘Adoption Scams’ probably are one of the most heart-wrenching scams out there, because emotions become involved. Adoption scams can occur this way: A couple or single person may seek to adopt a child and eventually are introduced to an Indiana woman who agreed to provide a healthy baby from Russia; for monetary compensation, of course. Expecting parents become excited when they see a photo of their promised child for the first time. That day never manifests itself, but it does leave behind gaping wounds.

9. For many, finding true love is a natural part of life, but ‘Online Dating Scams’ are also. Those who have the tendency to become starry-eyed from online dating might find this scam particularly interesting. Criminals contact you from your profile, explaining that he or she is interested in you. They also may have a profile you can read or a picture that is emailed to you. For weeks and months, you may chat back and forth with one another, forming a connection. You even may receive flowers or other gifts. What’s next? All of a sudden, your new-found “friend” is going to ask for money.

Although money initially may be sent, the requests won’t stop there. More and more financial hardships will arise, that only can be quelled with the help of your check book.

Spotting a Scam, When You See One

Here are five additional points to think about, where scams are concerned:

• Exercise extreme caution when dealing with companies and people you are unfamiliar with;

• If you feel you’ve been a victim of a would-be scam, contact your local authorities immediately. Several agencies also further investigate scam claims;

• Once your money has been forked over, it’s virtually impossible to retrieve it;

• Individuals, computer-generated content and text messages that specify you must act at once or that they are time-sensitive are not legit;

• Never give out personal information to unsolicited callers, because you never know what can happen, if this information winds up in the wrong person’s hands.

Never Too Careful

It’s not always possible to fly under the radar when it comes to scam artists, because they carefully have honed their craft in the art of deception. Though 100 percent avoidable, scams can be as unique and diverse, as the individuals who execute them. All things considered, you don’t have to be the victim of a scam, just to be able to spot one. Much like the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Web Links:

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/frauds-from-a-to-z;

http://www.stopfraud.gov/report.html;

http://www.bbb.org/blog/2012/03/can-you-name-the-ten-most-common-scams/

-Kimberly Williams

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