How to Spot a Scam
There are scams all over the place. Phone scams, email scams, snail mail scams and Internet scams are all over the place. Obviously, the best way to avoid these scams is to hang up, hit delete, throw it away or don't click the link, but sometimes it's not that easy to see what's coming. Here are just a few ways you can avoid being scammed.
Emails Marked "URGENT"
If it were truly something urgent, the sender would call. Just delete the email and call the sender directly. Scammers try and make everything sound like it needs to be taken care of right away because they're trying to make you do things without thinking about it. If you do open the email and click the link, and you get a pop up warning message saying that the "security certificate" is expired, close out of that website. Any legitimate website or business will keep their website's security certificate up to date; which brings me to our next point:
Check Your Browser Bar
When you're on a website that's not asking for sensitive information you should see "http://" in your browser bar. When you're doing online banking or you're on a website where personal or sensitive information is being exchanged, you should see "https://". The "s" means "secure" so you don't have to worry about any third parties being able to see your info. If you click on a link and you don't see "https://" don't give that website your information.
Throw it Away
A common snail mail scheme is the letter saying that you were randomly selected to win money and the sender just needs you to deposit a money order or check into your bank account and keep some for yourself, cut them a check for the rest of the money and everything will be square. Well, what they don't tell you is that the money order is no good and once they have your account information, your bank account will be empty. You've seen the letter about your car's warranty running out when you know it hasn't, the work from home scam letter or the letter saying you won a Canadian lottery that you know you didn't enter. The smartest thing to do here is to shred it and put it in the recycling bin.
Who's Calling Please?
If you're not on the National Do Not Call Registry, chances are you're getting bombarded with telemarketing calls and probably some phone scammers as well. You've won a cruise, a free membership to a buying club, a two hundred thousand dollar loan at some ridiculously low price, a credit card with no credit limit and people claiming to be with a fundraiser or charity of some sort; the list goes on and on. The Federal Trade Commission says that when you get a call like this, ask who's calling, make a note of their name, the date, time and phone number if you have caller ID and notify the FTC so they can track the scammer and hopefully put an end to their scheming ways.
My Dad always said that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's probably a duck. Trust your instincts and if it doesn't seem right, it's likely not. Hang up, throw the letters away, delete those emails and don't click on the link.