Consumer scams happen on the phone; through the mail, e-mail, or the Internet; and they can occur in person, at home, or at a business. Here are some tips:
- Put Martin’s number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Go to donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
- Don’t share numbers or passwords for Martin’s accounts, credit cards, or Social Security, unless you know the person you’re dealing with and why they need the information.
- After hearing a sales pitch, take time to compare prices. Ask for information in writing and read it carefully
- Too good to be true? Ask yourself why someone is trying so hard to give you a “great deal.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Watch out for deals that are only “good today” and that pressure you to act quickly. Be suspicious if you are not given enough time to read a contract or get legal advice before signing. Also watch out if you are told that you need to pay the seller quickly for example, by wiring the money or sending it by courier.
- Never pay up front for a promised prize. Suspect a scam if you are required to pay fees or taxes to receive a prize or other financial windfall.
- Watch for signs Martin already has been scammed. For example, does he receive a lot of mail or e-mail for sweepstakes? Has he paid people you don’t know, especially in other states or countries? Has he taken a lot of money out of the bank while he was with someone he recently met? Does he have a hard time explaining how he spent that money? Is he suddenly unable to pay for food, medicine, or utilities?
Common Consumer Scams
Relative in need
Someone who pretends to be a family member or friend calls or e-mails you to say they are in trouble and need you to wire money right away.
You get a call or letter from someone asking for money for a fake charity—either the charity does not exist or the charity did not call or write to you.
Lottery or sweepstakes
You get a call or e-mail that you have a chance to win a lot of money through a foreign country’s sweepstakes or lottery. The caller will offer tips about how to win if you pay a fee or buy something. Or the caller or e-mail says you already have won and you must give your bank account information or pay a fee to collect your winnings.
Scammers take money for repairs and then they never return to do the work or they do bad work. Sometimes they break something to create more work or they say that things need work when they don’t.
Scammers invite you to a free lunch and seminar, and then pressure you to give them information about your money and to invest the money with them. They offer you “tips” or “guaranteed returns.”
Scammers say you’ve won a free trip but they ask for a credit card number or advance cash to hold the reservation.
You get a call or letter that seems to be from a government agency. Scammers say that if you give a credit card number or send a money order, you can apply for government help with housing, home repairs, utilities, or taxes.
Scammers pretend they are with Medicare prescription drug plans, and try to sell Medicare discount drug cards that are not valid. Companies with Medicare drug plans are not allowed to send unsolicited mail, emails, or phone calls.
Scammers steal personal information—such as a name, date of birth, Social Security number, account number, or mother’s maiden name—and use the information to open credit cards or get a mortgage in someone else’s name.
Fake “official” mail
Scammers send letters or e-mails that look like they are from a legitimate party to try to get your personal information.