Don’t Be a Sucker! How to Sniff Out Scams!

In our busy society, more people are opting to communicate, shop, and conduct business through the Internet. As essential as the Internet has become to our every day lives, it also has introduced a plethora of scams, and opened another easy gateway for scammers to target unsuspecting victims.

According to Deliveringtrust.com and Ask David Horowitz with Fightback.com, here are common warning signs:

Sounds too good to be true – The overly generous, Nigerian prince does not exist, and he does not have millions of dollars he wants to give to you. Remember the golden rule, “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.”

Pressures you to act “right away”– “Sweepstakes scammers have a very good reason for wanting you to act quickly: They want to ensure that they receive their money before their check bounces” or your suspicions are confirmed.

Guarantees success– If you have looked for a job online in the past few years, you may have come across the work-from-home schemes, or the get-rich-quick schemes. Again, follow the golden rule.

Requires an upfront investment – even for a “free” prize– “Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay fees to participate or to receive a prize. You should never have to pay handling charges, service fees or any other charges upfront in order to win.” Have you won a cruise, and now you are required to pay the taxes, the air fare, the docking fees, etc and all of a sudden, you wondered why you entered in the first place?

Buyers want to overpay you for an item and have you send the difference by wiring them money– This actually just happened to our company. In the email from “Carol Willis”, she has requested that we charge her credit card for the sum of $3,500, keep $1,000 as a deposit and send the difference via Western Union. Thankfully, we did not fall for this scam!

Be suspicious of anyone asking you to wire them money through Western Union. “Criminals love to use services such as Western Union to receive illicit funds, because it is nearly impossible to trace who received the money. Western Union transfers are handled like cash, and it is very difficult to get back any money that you send to con artists in this way.”

Doesn’t have the look of a real business – Are they using an email from Gmail or Yahoo? Do they look legit online, but something still doesn’t feel right? If you have any doubts, check out the business’ profile on the Better Business Bureau to verify they are a trustworthy business.

You have won a contest and received your check winnings, but you don’t remember entering a contest– “Many con artists send counterfeit checks along with their phony win notifications”. If you have entered a contest, “legitimate sweepstakes require affidavits before sending out any prize valued more than $600”, and if you haven’t entered any contest, how could you have possibly won something?

Your bank information is required to claim your prize – If you are asked for your bank account number or your credit card number to claim a prize, it is a scam. “Legitimate sweepstakes do not send wins by direct deposits, nor do they need to withdraw money from your bank or verify information using your credit card number.” Don’t ever give out this information!

Facts and Tips to Protect Yourself from Scammers

Your bank will never email or call you for your account number.

With emails you don’t recognize, never click on any links (even to unsubscribe), open any attachments, call a number provided, or reply. Just delete it!

Check your bank statements for any charges you don’t recognize, review receipts against your bank statement, and shred any confidential paperwork.

Foreign lotteries are illegal in the US. You can’t win no matter what they promise.

Don’t wire money to people you don’t know.

Check out a business on the Better Business Bureau.

Use social networking to inform friends of known scams.

Help report online fraud. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP, and visit ftc.gov.