Let’s declare every day Independence Day! Independence from scam artists, that is.
All it takes is a little suspicion on our part and, if need be, a little Internet sleuthing to determine if that sweepstakes check is for real, if that order for $2,500 worth of paint to be shipped out of state is legit, or if offers to help you find “free” government grants is worth the fee.
In all scenarios – including scams not mentioned here – trust your intuition. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
• When it comes to sweepstakes, you can’t win something you didn’t enter. If you do reply to claim your “prize” and send in the $19.99 fee to cover fees and taxes, you’ll be out that amount and as a bonus you’ll end up on a gazillion other sweepstakes mailing lists.
• Small business owners think they’ve hit the jackpot when a large order – for everything from golf clubs to carpet – is made via a TTY operator or e-mail. The buyer requests the order be sent out of state or out of the country via a private shipping firm. And you’ll be asked to accept payment for both the goods and shipping on his (stolen) credit card. The scam artist then asks that you pay the shipper via wire service. And if you follow through with the order, you’ll be out both the goods and cash.
• These are tough times, you say. “Free” government grants could help your business or help send your kid to college. And there are numerous offers online and in classified ads for services that will help in your search. What you’ll get for that fee ranges from a list of grants you can find yourself – for free! – by going to grants.gov or nothing at all (as in you’ll never hear back from the company).
This country was built with a strong do-it-yourself work ethic. If, collectively, we put some effort into checking out companies before doing business with them and investigating offers that sound too good to be true, we could do serious damage to the financial coffers of scam artists worldwide. Now that would be something to celebrate!
Have you had a close encounter with a scam artist?