How to Protect Yourself Against 3 Common Scams

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Protect Yourself Against Scams and Fraud

From auto, investment and online scams, to FBI impersonators bilking consumers out of their money, fraud is rampant. Learn about three major scams taking place today so you can arm yourself against them:

Auto Scams

Imagine you find the car of your dreams through an online dealership. You contact the dealer, who tells you that the car is out of state. So you work out the deal, sign the paperwork and wire payment to the dealer. You also pay transport fees to have the car delivered. Then you wait for a car that never comes. Unfortunately, this is a situation that isn’t uncommon. To guard yourself against scams like this, be aware of the red flags:

  • It’s an out-of-state vehicle;
  • Dealer requires that you wire it money;
  • Price seems too good to be true.

Finding a great deal on the Web is absolutely possible, but it also requires a certain amount of caution. Never wire money to an online dealer without first having the car professionally inspected to make sure the car exists, first of all, but also that it’s in working condition. Also, before making any large purchases online, research the company with the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney’s Office where the business is located.

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Online Scams

Online scam artists are savvier than ever. They create phishing websites that look like exact duplicates of your banking institution’s website. The thieves then send you an email saying that there is something wrong with your account and request that you update your personal information. They even make it “convenient” for you to update your information by providing a link in the email. However, the link sends you to the look-alike site rather than the genuine website. When you complete the information, the thieves now have your personal information, which they can use to steal your identity, open new accounts or make purchases.

To protect yourself from phishing, avoid replying to emails that ask for personal information, don’t click on links or download files in unsolicited emails, and use anti-spyware or anti-virus software. If an email asks that you call to update your account or verify information, use the phone number on the back of your financial statements or documents instead of the one in the email.

Phone Scams

A phone scam involves callers posing as FBI agents, where they accuse a consumer of defaulting or owing fees on a payday loan, and if payment isn’t made, legal action will be taken. The thief typically has some of the consumer’s personal information, but asks him or her to verify other personal details, such as Social Security Number, addresses and employment information. These thieves are often very aggressive and threaten legal action and in some cases, physical violence, if the consumer refuses to pay. Some scam artists have even gotten consumers to fax information to them, along with a statement that the consumer agrees to pay fees with a prepaid credit card and not to dispute the charges.

If you ever receive a call like this, take immediate action to guard yourself against identity theft, such as alerting your financial institutions and putting a fraud alert on your credit reports. You should also contact your local law enforcement agency if you feel threatened and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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You don’t have to fall prey to scam artists. Gut instinct is a strong motivator. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be cautious, do your research and be proactive about protecting your personal information.

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