How to Avoid Scams

Stay one step ahead of unscrupulous scammers with these 5 simple tips.

By Max Alexander from Reader's Digest | March 2006

If you’ve been victimized by one of the latest scams, don’t be embarrassed. Scammers work overtime at perfecting their trade. Compared to them, the rest of us are rank amateurs. So speak up!

Start by contacting your local attorney general’s office (in the phone book under government listings), the Federal Trade Commission (877-382-4357), or the National Fraud Information Center (fraud.org). Even if authorities can’t get your money back, they can help prevent others from getting ripped off. Once scams get widely known, scammers are forced to move on. To stay clear of their latest tricks, heed these general tips:

  • When you have to send money to make money, think about it: If someone really owed you thousands but needed you to pay some up-front fees, why wouldn’t he just deduct the fees from your check?
  • The only time it’s ever acceptable to reveal personal information over the phone is if you initiate the call.
  • A $20 paper shredder is a great investment. Shredding everything from old checking statements to credit card offers can help prevent identity theft.
  • Don’t respond to any e-mails requesting personal information, no matter how official they look, and never click on a link from an e-mail sender you don’t know.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some people do win grants they haven’t applied for, but probably not you. Most wealth comes from hard work and saving, not get-rich-quick schemes.