Monday, July 14, 2008

If It’s Too Good to Be True...

How to Protect Yourself From 10 Common Frauds and Scams

Part One...


Cheryl had worked hard to support her two children after her husband was killed in an automobile accident. Even though she had very little formal education, she did quite well as a real estate agent and managed to save enough for a modest retirement after her children married and moved out of state. Lately, her health had been poor and working full time was impossible. She enjoyed the few small luxuries she could afford, such as going to the mall to buy presents for her three grandchildren. She could hardly believe her luck when a friend she met at the senior center told her about a fabulous new business opportunity to work out of her home. With only a few hours of work a week she could afford to travel to see her family. It sounded almost too good to be true, but he assured her there were hundreds of women just like her making lots of money. Her friend was such a nice man and almost before she knew what was happening, she invested $5,000 in the “franchise.” However, the materials she received seemed very difficult to understand and when she called her friend for help, he didn’t return her phone calls. The next week his phone number was disconnected.

Cheryl had just become a victim of a scam artist.

No one has an accurate estimate of the tremendous amount of money lost each year in fraudulent schemes and scams. What is known is that the senior population, particularly those over 70 years of age, is the most targeted and the most vulnerable.

This blog is written to help anyone identify and protect themselves from scams and frauds. The examples are based upon actual experiences as reported personally to the author or in the media. However, the names and situations have been changed and do not represent actual people or events. They are given as illustrations of the many methods used to steal money from people.

If you become a victim, it is very important to report the fraudulent activity to the proper government agency. Depending on the state, enforcement may be handled by an independent agency, such as adult protective services, or the state attorney general. Usually a call to the local sheriff’s office or police station will give you the information you need to report the scam. If you suspect that a friend or relative has been scammed, do not hesitate to report the incident to the police. Some states have laws requiring such information to be reported immediately to the responsible government agency.

The Blog is one of a series and is divided into a number of sections. The first three parts will define common terms and review issues associated with your privacy and identity. The next section, which constitutes the bulk of this Blog series, identifies 10 types of common scams and frauds. The concluding sections of this series list ways to protect yourself and how to find additional information or help.

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