If you’re like most people, you believe scams are a thing of fiction. They’re entertaining subjects for books and movies, but nothing that could happen in real life. Unfortunately, this type of thinking only makes scams more effective. According to the Better Business Bureau, Americans lose an estimated $50 billion every year to scams. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself from today’s scammers.
Take a Closer Look
Before scammers can get your money, they have to gain your trust. And that means finding ways to appeal to your interests and emotions. Scam artists are called artists for a reason. They’re incredibly crafty at making weight-loss products, fake prizes, and bogus business deals look like can’t-miss opportunities of a lifetime. Before agreeing to any plan or opportunity, do your own research. That means verifying stories and identifying people, instead of acting immediately. Ask questions. Try to poke holes in the story, especially if something seems too good or too dramatic to be true.
Don’t Give Money Away Immediately
Unfortunately, due diligence can be especially difficult if the scammer already has your trust. While the internet is the new hotbed of scam activity, family members, friends, and people posing as loved-ones are particularly good at getting into your pocketbook. Be careful about requests for money or access to your account, even when they seem to be coming from someone you know. This type of scam often comes by phone and email. So, take some time to make a few calls of your own using phone numbers you know to be real.
Prevent Access to Your Information
Some scams simply start with access to a piece of your personal information. Take steps to protect your information, both online and offline. Be sure your computer is equipped with anti-virus software and that your passwords are strong. Shred or destroy documents containing personal information. And check your credit report periodically, just to be sure that nothing looks suspicious.
Maybe the best way to avoid scams is to educate yourself and keep alert of current scamming trends. You can stay a step ahead of the scammers by signing up for free alert emails from the FTC. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to local news sources, in case there are any scams affecting people in your area.
Scams are more common than you think, and that is exactly what makes them so effective. Protect yourself by being suspicious, avoiding unsolicited communication, and protecting your personal information. If you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer, it’s always a good idea to report it to the FTC. This helps protect other potential victims and can help the authorities track the latest trends in scamming.