Be Alert to Scams and Avoid Falling Victim to Fraud or Identity Theft

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Scam victims lose more than just their life savings - they lose their sense of security, their self-worth, and their inner peace.  According to the National Institute of Justice, more than 24 million people will become victims of fraud this year.  These 24 million people will lose over $40 billion to unscrupulous criminals.  Modern-day technology has made it easier than ever for con artists to swindle you out of your life savings.  Every year, millions of people fall victim to fraud schemes. The lucky ones lose ten or twenty dollars. Unfortunately, the unlucky ones lose their entire life savings.

How can you protect yourself?  Learn how to spot the scams.

Scams currently circulating include;

Advanced Fee Loans

The Scam - You see an ad in a reputable newspaper that could solve all of your money woes.  A financial organization will give you a loan of $5,000, $10,000, or even $15,000, no matter your credit rating.  You apply for a loan - then find out that you must pay an up-front fee since you are at high risk of default.  This fee can run into the thousands of dollars, and it is non-refundable.  Once you pay the fee, the organization disappears - along with your loan.

Protect Yourself - If you need money to pay off your looming debt, go to a bank or a well-known lender.  Fraudulent loan organizations buy ad space in reputable newspapers for a reason - it gives them an aura of trustworthiness.  But anyone can buy ad space - even con artists.  Keep the money you would have spent on the up-front fee and use that to pay down your debt.

900 Scams

The Scam - A letter arrives in the mail claiming you have won a fantastic prize - a car, a boat, or a million dollars.  To find out what you have won, however, you need to call the 900-number listed in the letter.  You dial the number and reach a computer that keeps you on the line for ten minutes - at a rate of $4.99 a minute.  At the end of the call, you realize the grand total of your prize equals two dollars.

Protect Yourself - Carefully read through these letters before picking up the phone.  If the letter mentions a one- or two-dollar prize, throw it in the garbage.  A two-dollar prize is not worth wasting $49.90 on a phone call.

Grandparent Scam

The Scam - An elderly person receives a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson.  This man tells his so-called grandmother that he is in trouble and needs her help.  A thief stole his wallet and he can't afford to pay his rent, or he has been in a car accident and needs money to pay for his medical bills.  He would call his parents, but they would only yell at him and refuse to help.  He needs his loving grandmother to send him thousands of dollars through a money transfer company - money that will go straight into the con artist's pocket.

Protect Yourself - Before sending any money, do a bit of investigation.  Phone your relative to see if he is in trouble - odds are, he is safe at home.  If your elderly parents or grandparents live alone, tell them about this type of scheme.  Make sure they know your cell phone number so they can reach you if they ever think you are in trouble.

False Charities

The Scam - A woman shows up at your door collecting money for the local homeless shelter.  The shelter desperately needs cash to continue offering beds to those in need.  You hesitate and ask if you can donate a few dollars at a later date.  Yet instead of backing away politely, she pressures you into pulling out your wallet.

Protect Yourself - Be wary of anyone arriving at your door looking for donations.  Phone the charity to confirm the identity of the person standing on your doorstep.  Never give your personal information to charity workers, whether on the phone or in person.  If you want to contribute to a good cause, consider mailing a check to the charity's headquarters.  Your money will end up in the hands of the needy instead of the pockets of the greedy.

Inheritance Scheme

The Scam - You receive an email asking for your assistance; a wealthy businessman has died, and his friends need your help to hide his fortune from greedy relatives.  The effort on your part will be minimal - all you need to do is provide the number to your bank account, where the businessman's friends will deposit the millions.  In exchange, you will receive around 20 percent of the fortune.
Protect Yourself - Once the con artist has your banking information, he could drain your account.  Some criminals take the scam a step further by asking for an up-front banking fee.  Either way, this scheme could cost you thousands.  If you receive an email offering you millions of dollars for doing nothing, delete it - it is a scam. 

Lottery Emails

The Scam - You receive an email with the subject line, "Congratulations, you have won the lottery!"  It says that you have won an undisclosed amount of money - to learn the grand total of your prize, you need to call the listed number.  In small print, the email mentions you will have to pay a fee before collecting your prize.  You phone the number and use a money transfer service to pay the fee, but you never receive your winnings - and the lottery's phone number is now out of service.

Protect Yourself - Never pay the fee - no legitimate lottery requires winners to pay money up front before collecting a prize.  In addition, lotteries never contact winners by email.  Before opening similar emails in the future, look at the address.  If the so-called lottery uses a free email account like Yahoo or Hotmail, delete the email without opening - it isn't a real lottery, and your prize doesn't exist.

The Recovery Pitch #1

The Con - A law enforcement officer calls because his records show you lost money in a fraud scheme.  He then says he can help you recover your lost money - if you pay a fee to cover any legal expenses.

Protect Yourself - An officer will contact you if the police have seized money from a fraud scheme - but you will never have to pay a fee to recover your money.  If you doubt the identity of the "officer" on the phone, contact your local police station. 

The Recovery Pitch #2

The Con - You receive a call from a man claiming to be the new owner of a company that previously cheated you out of your sweepstakes winnings.  He is outraged by the previous owner's actions and wants to make amends.  If you send him a specified amount of money to cover various fees and costs, he will finally send you the prize you deserve.

Protect Yourself - Don't fall for the same scheme twice.  Once you pay the fee, this new owner will disappear along with your prize.  Never send money in exchange for a prize.  If you won a lottery or a sweepstakes, you will never need to pay a dime to receive your winnings.

It takes years to rebuild bank accounts, but it can take a lifetime to rebuild self-esteem and trust.  Save yourself the financial hardship and emotional turmoil.  Never send a company money without first researching it through your state Attorney General's office or the Better Business Bureau.  Never give your personal banking information when contacted by phone, text, email or someone soliciting information at your door. And always trust your instincts - if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This is just a partial listing of a wide range of scams circulating today.

Other popular ones include the Jury Duty Scam, the Hit Man Scam, and the "I've been robbed scam.

The bad guys are getting good at what they do! See scams and cons to find more.

Remember, con artists have a sucker list -don't get on it!


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