Most of us think we’re too smart to fall for a scam. We say to ourselves, “That wouldn’t happen to me.” In 2008 Americans lost more than $1.8 billion to these scams. 84% of consumers who reported the fraud also reported losing money. The average amount lost by a consumer was $440.
Protect your hard earned money! Safeguard yourself by identifying fraudulent scams before you or anyone you know falls victim. Below is a list of some of the most widely used scams crooks use to try to steal our money.
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1. Stimulus Scams
Ever since President Obama announced plans to send out stimulus checks in 2009 scams involving stimulus money have exploded in growth. Scam artists are always on the lookout for a new ways to get their hands on your money. Most of these scams involve duping consumers and business owners into thinking they can get stimulus money or other type of advice or assistance. Always be cautious of anyone asking for your bank account information or social security number.
2. Nigerian Money
You may think everyone knows about this scam by now, but just watch Chris Hanson’s Dateline video to see this age old con still gets many Americans each year.
The details of the scam change slightly from crook to crook but generally the tale is told like this; a letter or an email from a foreign country arrives with official looking documentation from a bank or government in that country. An agent from the bank or government explains how they’ve come to receive a large sum of money (usually in the millions) and that they need your help getting access to or disbursing the money. The scam always involves a vague promise by the crook to let you keep a large percentage of the money if you help them by paying some kind of transaction fee or pay off an official. The scam continues to swindle its victims out of large chunks of cash until the money runs out or threats of legal action are made.
3. Employment and Job Scams
Ever seen postings for jobs that promise six figure incomes with little to no effort or qualifications? The job postings that just don’t seem right.
Professionals in the medical billing field are targeted more often than not. Crooks offer to sell consumers materials teaching them the skill along with a list of medical professionals that would be interested in using your services. More often than not, the list of professionals is outdated or includes businesses that no longer exist.
Consumers should also be wary of postings for mystery shoppers. Companies hire people to shop at stores and use services like Western Union and then fill out information about their shopping experience. Victims were asked to wire money to a third party to test out services like Western Union and given phony checks to cover the expenses. By the time the checks bounced though, the crooks had made off with the consumers money.
There are legitimate opportunities out there that teach certain skills or business advices, but you should never have to pay for a job.
4. Job hunter
Just like in the stimulus scam, crooks use current events to find their victims. News reports everywhere report unemployment numbers and jobless claims being up or down each month. Job hunters also hear these numbers and know they are competing against many others for a small number of positions. This makes job hunters more open than most to a scam. Companies that run this type of scam ask potential candidates for their financial information such as bank account or social security numbers just to be considered for a position. Or, companies ask candidates to pay them upfront fees so they can run a credit check on them. All of which result in job seekers filing out fictitious paperwork for jobs that never even existed.
5. Refinance Your Mortgage
People who are facing foreclosure or need to sell their homes quickly are desperately searching for any avenue of assistance. Scammers can smell blood from a thousand miles away and are swooping in to take advantage of homeowner’s desperation. Crooks find their victims at the county court house. Every property facing foreclosure goes on a list from that county. This scam comes in a few variations but each time crooks promise to help homeowners save their house while obtaining high amounts of money from them.
One variation has homeowners paying high fees to a person who fills out bogus paperwork and makes phone calls on their behalf. The homeowner believes the crook is an agent of a lender who they hope to get a modified loan from. To make matters worse the crooks usually tell homeowners to ignore notices from their own lenders about foreclosure. By the time the jig is up the homeowner is so far into the foreclosure process that they generally do not recover and ultimately lose their house.
Another variation involves more face to face con work. Here, the crook befriends homeowners and weaves a web of lies that convince them to unknowingly sign over the deed to their house to a third party. Crooks promise to pay their mortgage for them for a specified amount of time while the homeowner gets back on their feet and then promises to sell their home back to them at a pre-determined price. Homeowners usually think they are signing new loan documents necessary to the mortgage relief assistance process. Crooks then stop making mortgage payments and take out loans against the equity in the house. Homeowners usually end up without a home and an even bigger mortgage to pay off than before.
What you can do
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FBI Director Robert Mueller recently said, “…where there is money to be made, fraud is not far behind, like bees to honey.” To protect yourself from scams like these follow these tried and true rules.
1. Delete the Email.
The government will never email you that your about to lose out on stimulus or bailout funds if you don’t give them your financial information right away! Avoid scams by deleting emails like these. If you are unsure as to whether or not to trust the source of information contact the organization directly.
2. Never give out personal or financial information.
The only time you should give out your banking information is when it’s to receive your tax return. The government will never ask for it otherwise. If companies looking to hire you demand such information as your social security number so they can run a credit check on you, run for the hills. This is a surefire way to get your identity stolen.
3. Pay via a credit card.
Never wire funds, particularly to someone out of the country. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once you do it you will never see that money again even if the crook is caught. When you pay a company with a credit card and discover fraudulent charges at a later date you can dispute the charges with your credit card company or cancel the card. Ensuring the crooks do not get their hands on your money.
The worst part is that some of these scams are legal! For example only seven states have laws on the books that make it illegal to “strip equity” from a homeowner or bailout a mortgage holder. Knowing what to look for is half the battle. Beware of companies or individuals using current events like Relief for Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and such to part you from your money. Keep your money out of the hands of evil crooks and stay abreast of the latest tricks con artists use by checking your Easy Street newsletter every Wednesday.
Keeping Money In Your Pocket,