We all know to avoid the obvious “get rich quick” schemes. The old adage, “too good to be true” is usually just that! Your first line of defense is your gut instinct!
However, every year – every day in fact – intelligent people across the world fall victim to hoaxes and scams. Being smart isn’t always enough. Be informed and be skeptical!
One of the biggest enemies of the scam artists is time. Sooooo, take your time.
One of the most popular and successful scams going around today starts out like this: Suppose you receive a letter from the IRS proclaiming “Notice of Under-Reported Income”? The official looking letter demands that you call, write in or send an email. Most of us take IRS communications quite seriously. Of course, that phone number, P.O. Box and email address isn’t that of the IRS. No reputable company or government organization will ask for your personal information by email! Unfortunately, a lot of honest individuals have fallen for this scam and divulged critically personal information. If you receive this type of letter, you should immediately call the IRS (see your phone book or visit www.irs.gov for ways to contact the “real” IRS.)
The “Tax Man” is not the only front scammers use to get your money or personal information. The mortgage and refinance process has proven to be a fertile ground for these con artists to prey on the unsuspecting citizen. With sub-prime loans often resetting from 1,500.00 to 4,000.00 and prices half cut in half, you can rightly imagine the field for home owner loan modification is ripe for the picking. Our best advice in this area: PAY NO MONEY UP FRONT! No exception. In California, that’s not only good sense, it’s the law.
These are only a few examples of the types of tricks today’s Con Men use to separate you from your hard earned money. Remember that Scammers prey on three primary elements:
Whenever you are getting ready to divulge personal information, do a little “pulse check” on yourself to determine whether any of these things are driving you to make a hasty decision. Here are eight questions worth considering whenever your gut is telling you to be careful:
- Was the offer unsolicited?
- Does it seem to be too good to be true?
- Can you independently verify their number and address?
- Are you being rushed?
- Are you being asked to call a premium rate phone number?
- Are they asking for personal information such as bank and credit card details?
- Is their only address a P.O. Box?
- Am I being asked to keep it confidential?
When in doubt (and even when you feel pretty confident) get references. Always!
Finally, use the Internet to get as much information as possible. Here are a few links I’ve found to be helpful,
On a personal note: It looks like I’ll be retiring! I just checked my email and it seems I’ve won the South African Lottery to the tune of 58,759,327 US dollars! All I have to do is reply with a bit of my personal banking information and they’ll be wiring the money directly into my account post haste! Sweeeet!
In the immortal words of the sergeant from Hill Street Blues…”Be careful out there..”