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Protecting yourself against scams and fraud

In going back over the articles I have written in the past, it appears as though a topic which is repeated about this time each year is Scam and Fraud awareness and prevention.


I could fill pages with the various types of scams as they seem to have penetrated most of our common activities or preyed upon our most vulnerable fears. There is however a common theme that runs through all of them and by making ourselves aware of this theme, we can apply it over and over again no matter what the solicitation.


Any fraud or scam requires one simple element; that we the subject of the fraud abandon our usual logic and transition to making decision based on fear, joy, or other basic human emotions.  It is in these moments that we most often make decisions we usually end up regretting. This not only applies to scams, but to any important decision in our lives. We would never consider buying a home based merely on our emotional attachment, and disregard the financial impact or shortcomings of the property. The same is true with a vehicle, or a job offering.


Yet when we look at the various types of scams they involve something like an audit from the IRS unless money is paid immediately, a credit card company who states your account has been compromised, a money order that needs to be sent to help out a child or grandchild who are stranded in a distant place, or that deal that seems too good to pass up. All of these conjure up the emotional side of our decision making process, and unless time is taken to allow us to return to our rational decision making process, the outcomes will most often be regretted.


A recent scam which we have been made aware of involves the topic of government grants. With the many grants that are continuously circulating, it can be easy to be drawn into such a fraud as it seems both reasonable and logical that there are in fact grant opportunities at all levels of government. This scam goes one step further in that the perpetrators compromised the victims facebook account and then posed at a family or friend recommending that they pursue this grant opportunity as they had. The best prevention to this scam is first to solidify all passwords to any and all accounts. Secondly, don’t believe anything or anyone you see on social media. Verify in person when possible.


While there are many great opportunities which may come along, it is vital that we put some distance between the initial offer and our final decision. It is always a great idea to put that same offer in front of another person who again is emotional detached and can give a second opinion based on logic and reason.


It is important that when faced with any sort of legal notice, that other family, or counsel be contacted to validate the request. Any legitimate agency or organization will understand the need for validation of a notice and will gladly provide further information when requested.


Another point I would like to stress is that once a fraudulent transaction has taken place, the ability for law enforcement to recover the loss or effectively charge the perpetrators is very limited. As soon as the perpetrators in these cases achieve their goal, they literally disappear. The phone number which was provided for you to contact them with will no longer work. Their email which you used to contact them with will not exist. This is not just a reality for our agency, but for any law enforcement agency attempting to follow up on these types of cases.


This is why prevention is so important, and remains our primary message. If you have encountered a suspicious incident regarding the sale or purchase of an item on the internet, or have been contacted by an individual or group with requests for your personal of financial information DO NOT PROVIDE ANY INFORMATION!


Even in the event that the transaction seems legitimate, DO NOT send money until you have received the product or service. PERIOD! If the transaction requires additional costs be incurred prior to the sale, this should be an indicator of a fraudulent transaction.  

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