In today’s world, there are few of us who haven’t been ‘scammed.’ While I am not surprised I was, I am shocked when talking with others how many of us have fallen prey to and have become victims of fraud. And this is in every arena: banking, shopping, use of the ATM machine, listing or buying on CraigsList, bidding and selling on eBay. Everywhere.
I was selling a couple of appliances on CraigsList last year. Even when I considered it, I had a bad feeling because I have never trusted CraigsList, nor been successful selling or buying anything on their site. Sure enough, I fell for one of the most common scams: Accepting a check from the buyer for the items, cashing it and sending him the remainder in a money order. Even when I was doing it, I felt it wasn’t right, yet, I continued. All the signs were there. Not only was it a very common crime, each time the perpetrator texted me, he had a different phone number! I’m embarrassed to say, I knew it wasn’t right and did it anyway.
I immediately went to the fraud section of CraigsList and followed their directions for reporting the crime/fraud; among them going to the Federal Trade Commission website (ftc.com). I also filed a report at my local police station.
How can you avoid becoming that victim?
Number one, look out for the warning signs: If something sounds ‘too good to be true,’ it probably is. When you’re being pressured to act ‘right away;’ Some one or business promises unusually high returns; The situation doesn’t feel like, smell like or look like a ‘real’ business; Something just doesn’t feel ‘right;’ A buyer wants to overpay you for an item and have you send them the difference; and/or Requirement of an upfront investment, even when there is a ‘free’ prize involved.
Two: The IRS will NEVER call you on the phone. Your bank will never email or call you for your account number. Do NOT wire money to someone you don’t know. Check your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize. Check out a company with the Better Business Bureau. Be wary of work-at-home offers. Foreign inquiries are illegal in the U.S. Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus once/year.
Three: Never click on a link inside of an email to visit a website. Instead, type the address in the browser. Only two percent of reported identity theft occurs through the mail. Keep your receipts, statements and packing slips. Review them for accuracy.
The Federal Trade Commission (ftc.com) has a site you can consult for not only reporting a crime, but also for suggestions and consumer issues. Do it ahead of time. Like me, you could fool yourself, even when your senses are telling you otherwise!
Look out not only for yourself, but for your loved ones, neighbors and especially the elderly. It is so common for elderly people to be scammed, by phone and mail. Let’s all be alert!