Protecting Yourself from Fraud
Here is how you can prevent scammers from making you their next victim according to an attorney.
Most people work hard to earn their money. Other people choose to try to take money from those who truly earned it. Every year, consumers lose well over $1 billion to scams and frauds. Sometimes scams take big money, and other times they sneak little chunks of cash. Some frauds are clever financial cheats, while others are simple “phishing” schemes that ask people to give up their own personal information willingly (and, sadly, many do). But all scams are dangerous. You need to protect yourself from fraud.
In his years as a financial malpractice attorney, Howard Fensterman has seen all kinds of frauds. He has also seen enough to know that even the smartest, most business-savvy people need to worry about getting scammed. No matter how clever you may be, you need to prepare yourself and protect yourself. Here’s what you should do.
Use trusted brokers and marketplaces for big purchases
Some things in life are too pricey to take risks on. Imagine this: You see a used car for sale. It looks like just the car that you want, and the price is eye-popping—almost, you think, too good to be true. But you meet with the guy selling the car and everything seems OK, so you take the plunge. A week later, it breaks down. And now, because you bought the car directly from the previous owner in a private transaction, you have few options. You could try to sue, but you aren’t necessarily going to get far with that. You may just have to take the loss.
This won’t happen if you use trusted dealers and online auto marketplaces. Many retailers offer safeguards, and most at least police their platforms and make sure that you have as much information as can be made available. So when you Google “used cars for sale near me,” steer clear of the private listings and look for reputable websites. Use the same logic anytime you make a big purchase, whether it’s an engagement ring, a boat, or anything major. Don’t hand a bunch of money to anyone who isn’t backed by a legitimate business.
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of scams
Every year, millions of Americans are victims of scams. Some of these scams aren’t particularly intricate or well-disguised; in fact, many seem crude and obvious in retrospect. But it takes only one lapse of judgment or attention for a scammer to find an opening.
You’ll be better protected if you know what scams look like. While you might like to think that you could deduce that something is a scam on the fly, it will be a whole lot easier if you memorize simple warning signs, such as callers claiming to be from the government, pushy people urging you to “act now,” and requests to transfer personal information in insecure or unusual ways.
Keep private information private
One of the warning signs just covered is a request for personal information. That means everything from your Social Security number to your birthday. Some pieces of personal information are more private than others, but all should be treated with care. When you’re careless with your identifying information, thieves may not have to scam you at all; they could just grab your bank statement out of your garbage and go to town.
So be smart. Keep your personal information private by being careful on the web, shredding documents, and not over-sharing information in person or on the phone. While you don’t have to live in fear, you should take care with every piece of information that helps identify you.
Frauds and scams can work in all different ways, but virtually all of them have something in common: They demand the target’s belief and trust, however grudgingly it may be given. Scammers will use all kinds of tactics to get you to take the bait, including pressuring you to make a decision fast before you have time to think. However they get it though, they do need you to take the bait and trust them.
So be skeptical. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone on the phone says that they’re from the government, don’t assume that’s the trust. If an email says it’s from Apple, consider the possibility that it’s not (even if the email address matches; scammers can “spoof” email addresses). Honest people will be able to prove their legitimacy, and healthy skepticism will go a long way toward keeping you protected.