A good rule of thumb: if an offer seems too good to be true, investigate first! Maybe you just got lucky or found a really great deal… but it’s more likely that someone is trying to run a con. The internet makes it easier for people to try to pull them, but it’s also easier for you to protect yourself. Others who have been duped will likely share their experiences online, and sites like Snopes.com do a great job of documenting known scams.
Most people are familiar with scams involving princes from foreign countries and million dollar sweepstakes, but here are a few of the more sophisticated scams you should keep an eye out for:
A work-at-home job offer – With so many people out of work, of course someone figured out how to exploit them! Now, there are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities, but scam artists are using these irresistible offers as a way to get your bank account information. Once you’ve been interviewed, they’ll ask for your bank account information, social security, and other personal details in order to “wire your payment.” Instead, they’ll use it to steal your ID. Similarly, keep an eye out for “secret shopper” opportunities that use a similar model to con you into giving up valuable information.
Social network messaging cons – You don’t just need to worry about scams that come to your email inbox, now you have to be wary when you get an instant message on Facebook! These con artists have taken it up a notch and employed bots that will actually reply to you while you chat in ways that don’t seem entirely unbelievable. It’s a little bit similar to how Siri on the iPhone is able respond to your commands, only with nefarious goals: to get your personal data or to convince you to click on a link to a computer virus.
Home improvement scams – Did your home just get hit by a natural disaster or maybe one of the man-made variety, like a burst pipe? There are many people ready to take advantage of your unfortunate situation by offering their “services” (usually at a great price) to fix your problem. They’ll start by asking for some money up front… and then disappear. How do you prevent this from happening? It’s simple: ask for their business license. If they don’t have one, take your business elsewhere.
A “free” credit report – When most people seek out that annual free credit report the government guaranteed us, they simply type in “free credit report” to a search engine. Unfortunately, the sites that pop up are usually on-going services that start off by offering you free information – then charge you on a monthly or annual basis if you don’t cancel. Although these sites don’t outright lie, they also don’t tell you that you can get the same information absolutely free of charge – with no strings attached – through www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
Have you been duped by a scam? Help other people avoid your fate by sharing in the comments.