Scams are everywhere these days. You’ll often get phone calls, emails, and even in-person solicitations fraudulently asking for money in a way that seems normal. Though you can often tell if you’re dealing with a con artist, some scams seem real, particularly if the person claims to be from a reputable source.
For example, around tax season, you’ll often receive phone calls and spam email from an organization claiming to be the IRS. They’ll say they discovered a discrepancy on your taxes and you owe them money immediately to avoid jail time.
Because they’re claiming to be someone as intimidating as the IRS, it might seem like a legitimate call. However, giving into scams like this will potentially drain your bank account. Learning to identify scams for what they are and taking steps to prevent falling for such schemes is essential to protecting your investments.
Use these strategies to make a difference.
- Recognize Fraudulent Advertisements
A popular method of conning people out of their money is using advertisements for large purchases, such as a home. Real estate scammers are increasingly common thanks to the internet. People often purchase homes sight unseen because they believe they’ve viewed pictures of the house and scoped it out on Google Earth.
In some cases, this works just fine. In others, real estate scammers will claim false ownership of a home, and use an agency’s listing photographs and information to try to sell the home to unsuspecting home buyers. The scammer will ask for a sizeable check for the down payment, and then they’ll disappear without a trace.
The ability to recognize fraudulent advertisements in real estate, and any other large purchase, could save you thousands. Here are some of the top ways that you can spot a false ad from a mile away:
- A price that’s too good to be true
- Odd contact information
- Grammar, spelling, and sentence structure errors
- Overly eagerly seller
- Seller asks you to wire money
- Seller doesn’t have a legitimate office
If anything looks fishy about the advertisement, run the other way!
- Understand Official Forms of Communication
If someone calls you, claiming to be the IRS or another reputable agency, it’s almost certainly a scam. The IRS will never call or email you. They prefer to communicate via snail mail because it’s much more difficult to forge official documents from the IRS when they come to your mailbox.
Understanding the way organizations communicate will significantly reduce your chances of falling for a scam. If you’re doubtful about a call, check into the official mode of communication of the entity of which the scammer claims to be a part. You can also Google their phone number to see if it comes from an official site or if it’s been categorized as a scammer’s number.
- Read Forums
If you suspect that a phone call or email is the product of a scam, others have likely been recipients of the same thing. You can often read about others’ experiences with a certain solicitation and discern whether or not it’s the real deal on forums.
Some of the best forums for discussing scams include:
- Citywire Money
- Internet Scam Resource
When in doubt about any form of communication, take a look at these sites and see if others have any advice for handling the issue.
- Don’t Give Out Personal Information
Today, people make online purchases all the time. They enter a secure checkout page, whip out their credit cards, and enter the numbers without a second thought. When shopping on a credible, secure site, it’s fine to give out this information, but you should be more careful about where this information ends up.
For starters, if anyone asks you for credit card, address, phone number, social security, or other personal information over the phone, take that as a sign that they’re after your money. There are very few instances in which you’ll be required to give that kind of information over the phone. If it’s a legitimate institution and you refuse to pay over the phone, they’ll understand your concerns and offer you an alternate way to transmit the information. Guard your information carefully and you’re less likely to be the victim of fraud.