Scams are increasingly sophisticated and use a variety of tactics, excuses and lies to convince you that they are genuine. Scammers continue to target everyone, regardless of age, gender, education or income level. Scams can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress.
Almost everyone will be approached by a scammer at some time. Scams are limited only by the imagination of scammers, but common types of scams include email from your bank, chain letters, investment and pyramid schemes, health and medical scams, identity theft, employment and housing opportunities, lottery and prizes, and even charities.
Scammers are skilled at taking advantage of people who are vulnerable, including the elderly, and those who have limited options. For example scam artists stole millions of dollars from distressed homeowners by promising immediate relief from foreclosure. Scammers are even prevalent on online dating sites preying on lonely hearts.
“If it looks too good to be true – it probably is” is an age old adage that is still one of the best defenses against scams. Other tips on how to avoid scams include:
- ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment.
- Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes: the only people who make money are the scammers.
- Do not agree to offers or deals straight away: tell the person that you are not interested or that you want to get some independent advice before making a decision.
- NEVER send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust. Donate only to reputable established charities or those that you have confirmed are legitimate.
- Check your bank account and credit card statements when you get them. If you see a transaction you cannot explain, report it to your bank or credit card company.
- Keep your credit and ATM cards safe. Do not share your PIN with anyone. Do not keep any written copy of your PIN with the card.
In situations where you are uncertain, remember that if someone wants money or information from you, then you have the power to make demands, and that person is not in charge. So, if estate agents from Hong Kong claim you have inherited money and they want your bank account information, ignore them or tell them to send you a check.
Information on specific scams and what more you can do to protect yourself can be found atscambusters.org.