One of the most troubling aspects of financial scams is that they prey on people’s best intentions. Nearly every time a natural disaster occurs, the Federal Trade Commission issues a report warning against scammers posing as charity fundraisers offering their funds to the latest victims.
And being victimized by a scam can cost a lot of money, cause serious damage to your credit score and take hours and hours of your time to recover from. Here’s a look at some steps you can take to make sure you and your finances are protected from scam artists.
Protect Your Money
- Do some research. If you’re offered a questionable deal over the phone or in person, don’t agree right away. Instead, consult with a trusted friend or family member. That way, you’ll have a chance to cool down and get a second opinion.
- Check your credit. Anyone who has filed for bankruptcy understands the importance of monitoring her credit report, and in addition to giving you a general picture of your financial health, it can show you whether or not anyone besides you has been using your accounts or identifying information. You can see your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure you’re the only one spending your money.
- Keep your information private. Most people know now not to write their Social Security Number on checks, but it’s also a good idea to take greater measures to protect yourself. Check out the FTC’s resources for keeping your phone number, email address and other contact information private.
- Know debit and credit card risks. While most credit card issuers offer excellent protections for scam victims, debit card protections are often scant. If you have the option between debit and credit (and you can trust yourself to pay your bill in full each month), choose credit when making large purchases or ordering products online.
- Know the risks of email and phone calls. These days, scammers can call themselves whatever they want to trick caller ID into making you think you’re talking with someone trustworthy. And email scammers are getting better and better at sending phony links that look legitimate. Generally speaking, don’t offer personal information unless you’ve typed a URL or dialed a phone number yourself; otherwise, you risk sharing your sensitive facts with the wrong sort of people.
- Pay attention to your medical information. When you receive mail from your health care provider about services or insurance issues, read through it carefully to make sure nobody but you has been using your information to receive medical treatment. Medical identity theft is a serious concern that can damage you financially and lead to inappropriate medical treatment.