Today, every penny counts! And that goes double for protecting your hard earned dollars from the numerous scams that are lurking around nearly every corner, trying to separate you and your cash.
In the recent economic downturn, it seems that scammers have become more creative – and more plentiful! Once you’ve lost any amount of money, it can be difficult to get it back – and those who do, typically must go through many hoops in order to do so. With this in mind, it’s essential to know what scams are out there so that you can be more aware of what to look for and can potentially stop a scheme before it happens.
From ATM card skimmers to fake Craigslist postings, criminals are everywhere trying to get your money. Here is a list of some of the new and prevalent scams that you need to watch out for in 2012:
ATM Card Skimming
Most of us try to stay very aware of our surroundings when we are in the midst of an ATM transaction. Yet, sometimes, the biggest thieves are in the smallest of packages. In fact, according to the U.S. Secret Service, ATM skimming is on the rise. How does this scam work?
In most cases, when an individual swipes their bank card at an ATM machine, skimmers – or tiny cameras that are placed and hidden by the thieves – can steal important information from the magnetic strip that is on your card. Once this information is obtained, the scammers can put your information on to another card and use your pin number to steal money right out of your bank account!
False Job Postings on Craigslist
While Craigslist may be a great place to sell unneeded furniture and appliances for cash, it has also become somewhat dangerous. One of the more recent scams that has appeared on the site is the false job posting. Oftentimes, once an applicant responds to a job, an “interviewer” will contact the applicant and request additional personal information prior to setting up an in-person “interview.” Unfortunately, once the personal information is obtained, there is no follow-up interview or job.
Paying More than Your Asking Price on Craigslist
Another popular way for scammers to target those on Craigslist is to email you about an item that you are selling. The individual will offer to purchase your item via a cashier’s check for more than its asking price, and then request that you send them back the difference. Unfortunately, the “check” from the buyer will bounce in your bank account – leaving you out the “overage” that you returned to the buyer, along with a likely service charge from the bank.
The “Nigerian Letter”
These email letters can take many forms, but recently one of the more popular has been that of needing help. One example includes that of a U.S. soldier trying to get home but is short on funds and would welcome any donations that can help. While most of us would open our hearts – and out wallets – in a real situation, the best thing to do here is to delete the email and send no money.
We all like to have “friends” on Facebook. But if an organization or person that you don’t know tries to friend you, it is likely that they are trying to obtain additional information about you that may be found on your Facebook profile – including your address, phone number, and other pertinent data.
The scammers in this scheme typically launch pages that are designed to draw like-minded people and giving social networkers the feeling that the page is legitimate. However, once this page is “friended,” the thieves can link your information out of the safe social network site environment to an external website where your computer could be attacked by a virus or confronted by other scams.
Another online scam includes emails being sent that state you have just won a lottery or some other form of monetary prize or inheritance. “All you need to do” is provide the bank and bank account number to which you would like this money to be sent, and you will be all set!
As much as it would be nice to win a large sum of money from an unknown stranger, the best defense here is to delete the email. Or, you could take it is step further and report the email to the FBI where they can do further follow up on the sender.
Requests to “Re-Enter” or Verify Personal Information on Your Account
You may have received an email in the past from a sender who is impersonating your bank or credit card company and asking you to “re-enter” or to “verify” your account and personal information because it has supposedly been lost by the company and your account needs to be reset.
This is a classic scam, however, that is often referred to as “phishing.” Phishing is basically an attempt to trick a computer user into providing financial or personal information via email. Once the scammers have this information, they pretty much have free reign to skim money from your accounts.
The best way to avoid this common scam is to immediately delete information from unknown senders – as well as from senders that may even appear legit. If your bank or credit card company really needed your information, it is highly unlikely that they will be asking for it via the Internet.
Proprietary Mutual Funds
Many of us trust our financial planners. However, the next time you meet with yours, be sure to take note of the investments that he or she is recommending that you purchase. In some cases, financial services companies make an additional “spiff” or commission by selling certain funds – regardless of whether or not they are the right choice for the investor.
Cute Baby Photo Contest
Cute baby photo contests are also ripe with scammers. These schemes are typically used to obtain sensitive financial information from you under the guise of sending you a contest reward. They may also be a way for scammers to get you to purchase items at an inflated value, such as a photo book or other item that is “required” for entrance to the contest.
Money Making “Opportunities”
It’s happened to us all – we are flipping through channels late at night when we come upon a TV infomercial that claims to show us the “secret” to easy riches. Oftentimes these programs feature “real people” holding fat checks and telling us how easy it was to live the life of their dreams simply by following this guru’s “system.”
Unfortunately, most of the real wealth gurus are not hawking their secrets on late night television. And those who fall for these scams oftentimes end up out hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars before they realize that they are not going to become wealthy.