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Identifying and Avoiding Consumer Fraud

Look for these warning signs to avoid fraud:

• Someone you don't know asks you to send money or money orders to claim a prize, lottery, credit card, loan, or other valuable offer.

• Someone you don't know offers you the chance to receive a credit card, loan, prize, lottery, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data to claim it.

• An unknown caller claiming to be a lawyer or in law enforcement offers to help you get your money back (for a fee).

• The deal is only good "for today" or a short period of time.

• The seller offers "free gifts" in return for a minimum effort or a fee.

• A "repair person" suddenly finds a dangerous defect in your car or home.

• You are given little or no time to read a contract.

• A sale item is suddenly unavailable but a "much better item" is available for slightly more money.

• Someone is trying to scare you into purchasing credit protection plans.

• The solicitation looks like a government document and suggests contest winnings or unclaimed assets are yours for a small fee. (The government doesn't solicit money from citizens.)

• You are asked for your bank account or credit card number.


Quick Tips for Avoiding Fraud

• Don't give out personal information. Be suspicious of anyone you don't know who asks for your Social Security number, credit card and bank account details, date of birth, etc.

• Don't be intimidated. Be suspicious of calls or e-mails that want you to provide or verify personal information immediately. Tell them you're not interested and hang up or don't reply to the e-mail.

• Monitor your accounts. Review bank and credit card statements carefully. Report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution immediately.

• Use a shredder. Tear or shred credit offers you receive in the mail, bank statements, insurance forms and other papers with personal information.


Fraud Alert

Be on the lookout for these common scams:

• Fake Check Scams- You discover the check is worthless after you've deposited it and wired money back to the crook.

• Sweetheart Swindles- Criminals befriend you in online chat rooms or dating sites, then request money as a favor or for accident or travel expenses.

• Auctions- Beware of fraudulent sellers and bogus merchandise.

• Lotteries- Don't fall for foreign lotteries; they're illegal to play and may be a scam.

• Advance Fee Loans and Credit- It's illegal for telemarketers to charge a fee in advance for help getting a loan.