A few simple precautions can help prevent scam artists from being successful.
What you need to know
- Scam artists pretend to be people we want to trust, like government officials, law enforcement, bank staff or even family members;
- Never give out personal information or send money in response to an unexpected contact, no matter how urgent it may seem.
- Don't trust your Caller ID - it's not who you think it is.
- Readily available technology makes it easy to create a fake name and number to display on Caller ID or as the "sender" of a text message.
- If you are asked to send or wire money, or to buy prepaid cash cards, stop!
- A legitimate government agency or business will never ask you to wire money, buy prepaid cards (including prepaid gift cards such as iTunes, Best Buy, etc.), or deposit money into another person's account.
- As soon as you complete the transaction or read off the numbers from the back of the prepaid card, your money is gone. It is not possible to get that money back.
- Hang up, every time.
- Don't "press 1" to be taken off a call list; all it does is confirm that you listened to the message, which will result in more calls.
Not all websites are legitimate and there is no internet "police force." It is very easy to create a website. Scam artists create a phony business website complete with some fake positive reviews and use a fake street address - or the street address of an unsuspecting legitimate business - then then wait for the payments to roll in. The customer is out the money and because the fake business only exists online, the scam artists can't be found.
- Before doing business online with an unfamiliar company, check with the regulatory authorities in the state where the business is supposedly located.