10 Ways to Avoid Scams in 2015
Make a resolution to watch for warning signs and avoid being a victim
Millions of Americans get taken in by scams. While seniors make up a disproportionate number of victims, they're hardly alone.
Unless you want to lose money to crooks next year, resolve to beware the warning signs of scams — and heed them. To that end, here are 10 ways to avoid scams in 2015.
1. Do not give out personal or financial information in response to a phone call or email, even if it appears to be from a government agency or a company with which you do business. Thieves are skilled at looking legitimate. Verify who you're dealing with before providing sensitive information. To do it, call a phone number that you find yourself (from the back of a credit card, on a statement or from a phone listing, for instance) — not what’s provided by the caller or in an email.
2. When hiring a contractor, get copies of their licenses and insurance, and get all agreements in writing. That includes when money will be paid and when work will be completed. Be sure to check out the contractor through people you know and consumer agencies and organizations prior to signing a contract and paying a cent.
3. Beware of offers of "free" trips and other deals that appear too good to be true. These offers typically are attached to having to pay a variety of fees that end up making the trip a lot more costly than free. They also tend to come with so many catches that it's nearly impossible to book a trip.
4. Watch out for any offer that asks you to pay via a wire transfer service like MoneyGram or
5. Never sign a blank form. It's like signing a blank check. You could be agreeing to something that will cost you a lot of money.
6. Beware of the door-to-door salesman. Long gone are the days when real salesmen went door to door. These days, it's more likely that someone's trying to put one over on you. If you need to buy something or have something repaired or get yard work done, take a brochure or business card if they have one, but make your decisions about hiring or buying after you've done your homework.
7. Avoid pressure-filled decision-making. Telemarketers and others, such as car salesmen, rely on putting you on the spot to help close their deals. They'll make you think that if you don't take action now you'll be hurting yourself. It's usually the opposite. Take your time and evaluate your options. Any honest person will allow you time to think about whether you want to move forward.
8. When donating to charity, choose one that you like and want to support. Don't wait until you get a phone call or mailing asking for donations. Some charity solicitations come from companies or organizations that receive far more money than the charities themselves and are often collecting for less-than-worthy causes.
9. If you want to work from home, beware of offers to buy into a program that promises tons of guaranteed income. Whether it's medical billing, envelope stuffing or another supposed home-based business opportunity, it's most likely that the seller will be the only one making any money.
10. Don't buy into an investment offer just because it sounds great. Anyone can make a potential investment seem enticing. But promises of guaranteed profit and high rates of return are classic signs of a scam. Every legitimate investment comes with risk.