By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Guarding against scams
Placeholder Image
A bad economy sets the stage for more people becoming victims of fraud, scams, rip-offs, predatory lending and other schemes. People who have lost their jobs, or having trouble making ends meet, frequently grow desperate and fall victim to quick solutions that are too good to be true. The scam and rip-off industry has been growing substantially during the last two decades, fueled primarily by the Internet use and other societal factors that seem to have led to more greed.

First, keep in mind that the most likely sources of scams are those that come unsolicited to you. Beware of phone callers offering easy deals to help get you out of your financial crisis. Some of these scam artists will claim to be able to renegotiate your loan and have you make reduced payments to them while they handle the original loan payments. Of course, they do not make any payments on the loan, and after several months of being in arrears, you find out that your house is going into foreclosure. There are many variations to these scams, but they are all avoidable by using common sense and being sure to thoroughly research the business making these far flung offers. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is most likely is.

In more general terms, there are as many scams as there are the criminals trying to make victims out of unsuspecting potential victims. One common, ongoing scam features Nigerians who send letters or e-mails stating that they need a safe place to deposit substantial sums of money, and if you provide your bank account information, they will deposit thousands of dollars of which you will be entitled to 50 percent or more. Once they have your account information, you will lose everything.

The holiday brings its own scams. Callers posing to represent charities, foreign aid organizations, teacher groups, military personnel support groups, athletic foundations and even the police will contact potential victims and con them into making monetary donations. These crooks make it difficult for the legitimate organizations.

Persons selling cars or other items also need to be careful. Be alert to fake cashier's checks, counterfeit currency and other problems. One common scam involves a prospective buyer agreeing to buy a given item. They mail or give you a genuine-looking cashier's check for more than the amount of the item they are seeking to purchase, with the request that you refund them the difference. The seller (victim) transfers the sold item and gives the difference back to the buyer, only to find out, sometimes many days later, that the cashier's check was phony. My advice is to never proceed with a sale to a person offering such a deal. When you sell valuable items like a car, try to arrange to meet the buyer at a bank so you can immediately verify that the transaction is legitimate and not fall victim to fraud.

With a bit of effort, however, you can avoid problems with scams and other kinds of fraud. Before making any donations, ask a lot of questions. Find out the full name and return phone number of the person or organization making the request. The Internet is a good source for verifying the legitimacy of an organization or business seeking donations or making sales or loan offers. You can also contact your local police department for information pertaining to these matters. The best advice is to take your time and, if you have the slightest bit of doubt about the caller, hang up or tell them that you will call them later once you have verified their information. Many will tell you that you cannot call back. For me, that response alone is enough to end the conversation.

This country appears to be entering a difficult financial era. It is prime time to be extremely cautious when it comes to your assets, money and security. I wish you all the best as we collectively face these challenges. Use your common sense, question any deal or arrangement that has even just a hint of suspicion and you will likely overcome the threats posed by these various criminals.