Friday, November 02, 2012

25 Ways to Avoid a Scam


Due to Hurricane Sandy, many criminals have taken advantage of victims by scamming them for money during a time when many are experiencing hardships and loss.  There are hundreds of scams but the most common in 2011 as identified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are: social media, job, charity, sweepstakes and lottery, home improvement, check cashing, phishing, identity theft, penny actions, and BBB scam.  

The FTC has a list of 21 ways that criminals steal money on its Hurricane Recovery website at  The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) issued a warning last month to its member institutions to look out for 7 different types of disaster scams.  Some criminals:  pose as fake contractors, charge fees for non-existent loans or products, sell damaged goods, or pretend to be government employees or insurance representatives. Unfortunately no one is immune to scams but there are some warning signs. Here are 6 warning signs of a scam.

  1. The person is unable to provide a physical address, phone number or refuses to show identification.
  2. The person requests you provide financial information before work can be performed.
  3. The person seems nervous, does not look you directly in the eye or talks extremely fast.
  4. The person requests payment in full front or in cash only before work is performed.
  5. If you need a loan for repairs, the person recommends a lender.
  6. You are pressured to purchase goods or services without signing a contract or are not given enough time to review a contract.

Here are 26 ways to avoid being a victim of a scam.

  1. Ask for identification and carefully examine it if someone knocks on your door.
  2. Ask for an office number and pretend you are going to get your credit card or checkbook and call the office to verify the person’s identity.
  3. Look to see if the vehicle the person is driving is a company vehicle and write down the drivers’ license number, make, model, color, and license plate of the person’s car.
  4. Ask questions about why they are knocking on your door, why they feel you need their services and why you should do business with them.
  5. Avoid answering personal questions or respond no to personal questions such as: How long have you lived here? Who do you live with? Can I see the inside of your home or Can I walk around your property? Can I use the restroom or can I use your phone? etc.
  6. Don’t let the person come into your home.
  7. Avoid giving your personal and financial information.
  8. If you are a woman and live alone tell the person you will get back to them once you discuss it with your husband.
  9. Go with your gut.
  10. Look at any documentation provided and tell the person you will review it and get back to them.  If the person pressures you into signing the document or agreeing to do business that day tell them you will report them to the BBB for harassment.
  11. Do business with reputable companies who are licensed and bonded. Request a copy of their certificate of liability insurance. Get referrals from family members or friends.
  12. Get at least 3 quotes for repairs and loans and compare them.  If there are huge differences in price, schedule and terms and conditions ask questions.
  13. Ask for 3 references of past customers.
  14. Check the BBB website to see if there are any complaints against the person or go an internet search to look for any negative information.
  15. Get the contact information of the person who will be inspecting the work.
  16. Get a lien waver from the person or company performing the work.
  17. Do not pay the person in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
  18. Don’t sign any contract or documentation that has blank fields. The person should complete the necessary information before providing the documentation to you to complete.
  19. Discuss the proposed work with your insurer adjuster prior to signing any documentation.
  20. Businesses do not contact you by email or use pop-ups to ask for your personal information or account number.  Call the company and ask them to verify if they sent you an email.
  21. Know the status of your account including: personal information you provided to the company, status of your account (open, closed, etc.), balances and outstanding charges.
  22. Use spam filters on your email accounts.  If you click a link by accident close the browser immediately and go to the valid website to access your account. Change your password and notify the company that you received a phishing scam email. Create PINs and passwords that cannot easily be guessed.
  23. File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and your state's Attorney General or Consumer Affairs Office. Also file a police report.
  24. Beware of fraudulent checks.  Ask the company to send you a money order instead of a check.  This reduces your chances of cashing a fraudulent check and the company having access to your bank account.
  25. If you feel you were a victim of a scam report the incident to the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, FBI and US Postal Service.,

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