Scam artists continue to find new, creative ways to defraud innocent people, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to protect themselves, their families and their money. That said, by remembering these 10 tips from the experts at the Better Business Bureau, you’ll have a much better chance of avoiding most scams:
1. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited email. Links can download malware onto your computer and/or steal your identity. Be cautious even with email that looks familiar; it could be fake.
2. Don’t believe everything you see. Scammers are great at mimicking official seals, fonts and other details. Just because a website or email looks official, that doesn’t mean it is. Even Caller ID can be faked.
3. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be shady. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you’re not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods.
4. Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online. Scammers use dating websites, Craigslist, social media and many other sites to reach potential targets. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that’s part of the con to get you to trust them.
5. Never send money to someone you’ve never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it.
6. Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media or even at your front door. This includes your birthdate and Social Security number.
7. Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited-time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
8. Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes and debts. Don’t pay by wire transfers, prepaid money cards, gift cards or other non-traditional payment methods. Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments, and handshake deals without a contract.
9. Be cautious about what you share on social media. Consider only connecting with people you already know, and be sure to use privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you.
10. Whenever possible, work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance, especially contractors who’ll be coming into your home or anyone dealing with your money or sensitive information. Check them out at bbb.org to see what other consumers have experienced.