Scam

Back in the late 1800s, people who sold dubious medicines that claimed to do extraordinary things were dubbed “snake oil salesmen.” This term is still used today to describe a sleazy person who is trying to sell a cheap or ineffective product.

This example illustrates how scammers are certainly not a new phenomenon—they have been around for a long time, trying to take advantage of trusting people. However, thanks to advancements in technology, you might not find a scammer hawking some magical elixir at a state fair; instead, you may be exposed to criminals through email, by phone and when looking for work.

In order to avoid falling victim to a scam, it’s important to be aware of some of the common signs scammers will use. For instance, please consider the following examples:

Avoid Phishing Scams

Criminals have quickly figured out that email is a great way to reach potential victims and encourage them to disclose all sorts of personal information about themselves. After all, most people already get emails from their bank, credit card companies and other places, so if scammers can figure out ways to create credible looking messages and send them out, they may end up finding all sorts of new victims.

To avoid this scam, which is commonly known as “phishing,” suggests being highly suspicious of any and all emails that come in from companies and banks. Hover over the links in the emails to see if they will really connect you to your bank or credit card company, and be especially wary of generic messages that start out with “Dear customer” instead of your name. Also, be suspicious of pop-up ads that may appear when you are on a reputable website; you might understandably think they are connected with the company, but all too often they are also phishing attempts. If you do encounter a pop up, avoid clicking on the “cancel” button; instead, click on the small X in the corner of the box to get rid of it. Overall, never give out any type of personal info through an email or pop-up ad.

Be Careful When Looking for a New Job

Scammers also love to take advantage of people who are looking for work-from-home jobs. Even though tactics like pyramid schemes are a form of financial fraud, this has not stopped nefarious crooks from enticing people to sign up for programs that promise big bucks for just a few hours of work. Before signing up for any type of work-at-home position, do your due diligence and research the company to be sure it’s legit and not a scam.

For instance, while some direct sales companies such as Amway offer a valid and trusted way to work from home as an Independent Business Owner, others require you to pay a lot of money upfront, or base your pay on recruiting others to join. In a blogpost about Amway pyramid scheme facts, the company explains its business model and how it legitimately operates. In contrast, a pyramid scheme is not based on commercial activity at all; instead, you have to get other people to sign up with the company and invent in the business, which is then used to pay the people who joined earlier.

Watch Out for Shady Phone Calls

Some scammers use the good old fashioned telephone to try to cheat people out of money. As the FTC notes, these crooks are clever and will often call you by your first name, be friendly and chatty and may claim to be from a trusted company. To make matters worse, if you ask for more information so you can confirm that they are legitimate, the scammers will often advise people to visit a website, which is probably fake and used for phishing. Red flags to be aware of during phone calls include being told you have won something, you have been selected for an offer, and/or you will only be charged for shipping and handling on your credit card. Hang up on these calls and whatever you do, don’t give your personal info out to people who call you out of the blue.

Avoid Snake Oil and Scammers

Scammers may be nothing new, and they have definitely changed their tactics to reach people. But by being aware of their common tricks, never giving out personal info, and doing plenty of homework prior to working for a company, you should avoid falling victim to one of these crooks.