Scammers have devised every possible scheme—and then some—in attempts to swindle millions out of their hard-earned money. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 2.5 million consumers submitted complaints about scams in the last year alone. Knowing the signs of a con can help you avoid falling prey to these ploys, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), a nationally-recognized non-profit organization.
“Scammers often use the Internet, phone, email and pop-ups in an illegal attempt to defraud millions of consumers,” says Trumble. “Understanding all the different outlets and mechanisms used by scammers, and how to best guard against fraud, can help consumers avoid falling for common traps. In an effort to assist consumers, we have created a set of tips to help effectively avoid scams.”
These tips are:
1. Read all statements. Read through all of your bank and credit statements to check for charges you are unfamiliar with. Be sure to report unrecognizable transactions immediately.
2. Do not send money to strangers. Many scammers try to get consumers to wire money. If you are purchasing goods through an online auction, consider using a credit card that offers protection.
3. Do not reply to messages asking for information. Messages from unknown sources asking for financial or personal information are tricks to try to get consumers to unveil sensitive information, also known as phishing.
4. Be cautious when shopping via phone. Cell phones lack anti-virus software, which can leave consumers at risk when entering payment information. Shopping through retailers’ apps often provides more security.
5. Do not share Social Security numbers online. Legitimate websites and businesses rarely ask consumers to provide Social Security numbers.
6. Do not share personal identifying information over the phone. Never provide any personal information, including Social Security numbers or bank information, unless you have initiated the phone call and know who you are speaking with.
7. Choose credit over debit. Most credit cards come with fraud protection, which enables consumers to get their money back if they fall victim to fraud.
8. Use strong passwords. For secure accounts, create passwords that are hard to guess and include multiple numbers and characters.
And remember, Trumble says, that the most common forms of scams are fraud, identity theft, debt-in-collection and imposter schemes.
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