How do I Avoid Fraud?

Malcolm Tatum

Avoiding fraud is something just about everyone has to be concerned with these days. From protecting your identity to keeping away from scams involving real estate and stocks to circumventing scams that would attempt to separate you from your hard earned money, everyone has to be on constant guard. While the schemes and strategies used today are legion, there are a few basic ways to avoid fraud and not become a victim.

Some fraudulent schemes use direct mail to gather information about victims.
Some fraudulent schemes use direct mail to gather information about victims.

One of the most common types of fraud today is identity theft. Scammers can acquire your personal and credit information through a number of methods. Some will try telemarketing to convince you to either buy something or pay for a non-existent debt by supplying them with your name, address, a credit card number, or a checking account number. Never give out your personal information to anyone over the phone, unless it is a vendor you know very well, and you have initiated the call yourself.

Giving someone your debit card number can leave you open to fraud.
Giving someone your debit card number can leave you open to fraud.

In like manner, you can avoid fraud by refraining from click-on links included in the bodies of emails. Using a method known as phishing, a con artist will issue what appears to be a legitimate email from a financial institution, such as a bank, and include a link where you can go to confirm your account details. The link will take you to a site that may look perfectly legitimate, but in fact is only a splash page that will harvest any information you enter into the fields and forward that data to scammers who will then use your data to open credit card accounts, drain your checking and savings account, or use your credit card to make purchase all over the Internet.

Keep in mind that no bank or other financial institution engages in this type of activity. At best, you may receive an email from your bank asking you to contact them during normal business hours or asking you to log into the online access to your accounts using the typical methods. They will not include a link in the body of the email. If you receive any email asking for proprietary information and providing a link to a site to enter the data, ignore it. Should the email appear to be from a bank or business you normally do business with, contact them directly by phone and ask them about the legitimacy of the email. In just about every case, they will tell you the email did not come from them.

Direct mail pieces are still used in many fraudulent scam operations today. These sometimes insist you owe some sort of debt and advise them to either contact the collection agency immediately or provide banking or credit card information to arrange a series of easy monthly payments. If you do not avoid fraud of this type, you are likely to find your bank account drained and your credit card charged to the limit. Never respond unless you check out the supposed collection agency first; keep in mind legitimate firms will provide you with details regarding the debt and are generally happy to arrange payments with you that can be paid monthly by a check sent through regular mail.

Also avoid fraud schemes that masquerade as charities or other non-profit organizations. There are a world of scammers who prey on people by pretending to be collecting money for a church program or to combat some sort of disease or social ill. Never give money to any organization you cannot investigate.

You should also avoid fraud when it is in the form of get rich quick schemes involving real estate, stocks, or bonds. Getting involved with these types of scams can mean you soon lose most or all of your assets and have no way to contact the scammers, who have closed up shop and moved on. As with other deals that seem too good to be true, these really are. Never allow yourself or a loved one to get involved with this type of fraudulent activity.

If you do fail to avoid fraud, take steps to protect yourself as soon as possible. Contact your bank and close your checking account immediately. Have them transfer any remaining funds into a new account and generate a new debit card. The same is true with your credit card accounts. Notify them of the fraud, go through recent purchases with them to identify what is and is not a legitimate use of the account, then have it shut down. Most credit card providers will issue you a new account and have a new card on the way to you within twenty-four business hours. Above all, report any suspicious activity to local authorities at once. Your quick action may prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?