Naive people can get sucked into scams that cost thousands of dollars. Savvy people can also fall victim to a promise that, on its surface, seems legit. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that IF IT SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS.
Take me, for example. I had been looking for a certain brand of sneakers online. Admittedly, they were pretty pricey, which is why I kept on looking. And then one day, an ad popped up on my computer featuring those very same sneakers for half-price. What luck! I clicked on the ad (mistake #1) and proceeded to order my shoes. When it came time to pay, the only option the seller offered was PayPal so I logged into my PayPal account (mistake #2). I charged the shoes to my credit card (mistake #3), and sat back to wait for the email confirmation. By the next day with no email, I got cold feet (no pun intended) and contacted PayPal to cancel the purchase. PayPal promptly took care of it for me.
Although I wasn’t harmed by the situation, I learned a lesson. Several lessons. Others, I’m afraid, are not as fortunate. Scammers are everywhere, targeting the young, the old, and everyone in between. We’ve all been told to be diligent and heed the warning signs, and still we sometimes get sucked into a bad choice.
Here are a few tips that will undoubtedly seem obvious, but in light of my recent sneaker incident, I feel compelled to make my own list.
- Be skeptical. Check it out. Google the product, the service provider, the manufacturer, and/or the website. Read the reviews. Do your due diligence.
- Take some thinking time. This is specifically what I need to remember because I can be impulsive, and I have to force myself to slow down.
- If you’ve been declared the winner, don’t pay any money up front to release the prize. This goes for any communication you receive by phone. Remember that Caller ID can be faked.
- Guard your personal information carefully. Don’t give anything out over the phone unless you’ve originated the call. Check your bank statements, credit card statements, and credit report carefully and frequently.
What if it’s too late? What if you fell for the scam and now you’re stuck? Are there any resources for recourse? The first stop is the government agency that regulates fraud, the Federal Trade Commission. You can call them at 1-877-382-4357 to report your issue, or go to the website: www.reportfraud.ftc.gov. If you transacted business through Craigslist, Facebook, EBay, or PayPal, each of those entities has departments to help you navigate your claims. And there’s always YouTube. Just search “how to report a fraud” and you’ll have dozens of video resources at your fingertips.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Please don’t chalk the experience up to your own naivete, or the scammers will simply move on to another victim. Report them and maybe your actions will save someone else.