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How to Avoid Being Scammed

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I will admit it. I am a sucker. Kids come to the door selling cookies or popcorn or wrapping paper, I always melt and buy something. My neighbors love me for it because I can’t say no to a little kid trying to raise money for camp, but the Better Business Bureau and law enforcement have some advice for you when it comes to your money. Here are some of the top scams and how not to fall victim.

Debt Relief Services

Most of them charge some sort of fee and that can get you even deeper into debt. With the down economy, complaints regarding so-called “debt relief” businesses went up 30%. If you are having some sort of financial difficulty and are looking to consolidate your debt, don’t just spill your guts to the person on the other end of the line. Go to your bank or financial institution and see if they can help, or call the creditor directly and see if there is some sort of plan you can work out.


Work From Home Scams

If you could really make $100 an hour as a secret shopper, survey taker or toothpaste tube cap screwer onner everyone would be doing it. If you are being asked via email by the so-called company to provide personal information such as a social security number, bank account number or personal identification number to even be considered for the job, don’t do it. Instead of collecting a pay check, you probably won’t have a bank account to deposit anything in to when you do find legitimate work.


“Free” Trial Offers

You always see that it’s “no risk”, but you have to provide a credit card number in order to get whatever product it is that they’re hocking. Thousands of people complained last year about being scammed by a supposed “free trial offer” and said that when they tried to cancel it was nearly impossible and that their credit cards were charged anyway.


Door to Door Offers

I’m not talking about the twins from across the street selling kool-aid, popcorn or cookies. This is specifically door to door sales people offering work on your home. There is always an uptick in these kinds of scams following a storm. The BBB is warning homeowners to NEVER sign anything. Always talk to your insurance provider first and always ask for identification when someone does show up. Last year, complaints to the BBB regarding roofing companies were up 40%, partly due to one company calling themselves American Shingle. They had door to door sales people collecting money from homeowners promising a new roof for a cheap price. Shortly thereafter, they declared bankruptcy and no one got the roof that they paid for.


Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Ed McMahon showing up at your door with an oversized check, balloons and a TV camera was real. However, thieves and scammers like to call Great Auntie Edna, Meema and Beepa or dear old Uncle Bob and claim to be associated with Publisher’s Clearing House or Reader’s Digest saying that they have won a prize. Then they tell them that all they have to do to claim that prize is wire them a few hundred dollars or grant them access to their bank account and their prize money is on its way. Sounds sketchy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, people do fall for this scam and get ripped off more often than not.  Local law enforcement agencies say this happens all too often and when you get a call like that, to hang up and immediately notify authorities so they can catch whoever is trying to scam you out of your money.


Over-Payment Scams

Typically, small business owners, landlords and sellers on websites are most often targets of this scam. How it works is, the scammer (posing as a legitimate buyer) pays too much money for something using a stolen credit card number. Then, while the payment is processing they contact the seller and asks them to wire them the difference. The scammer gets the money, the payment doesn’t go through and you’re on the hook for all of it.


Advance Fee Loan Scams

Victims are told that they qualify to borrow an amount of money, but they have to pay a fee up front. (NOTE: This is NOT the same as handing over earnest money or escrow funds to your mortgage company.) Sometimes the fee is in the thousands of dollars and advance fee loan scams usually target people who are already in financial dire straits.


Just remember: If it’s an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t fall for it and contact authorities. Never ever give your personal information to anyone ever. If you feel you may have been scammed, you are urged to contact local law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General.

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