How to Prevent Fraud

In order to better keep yourself and older family members safe, let’s go ahead and take a look at what you should do to prevent fraud, what you shouldn’t do, and ways to report possible scams. The truth of the matter is that con artists and scammers (both in the U.S. specifically and the world in general) swindle money from millions of people every single year. They can use telephones, emails, postal mail, and the internet to dupe you or your loved ones into giving them money or giving out personal information.

First, let’s look at some things that you can (and should) do to help avoid and prevent fraud:

What to Do

Know who you’re dealing with: Try and find a seller’s physical address (not a Post Office Box) and phone number. It can be very tough to tell where someone is actually calling from due to internet phone services and other sorts of web-based technologies. Search online for the company name and website, and check for any reviews. If you see that people are having negative experiences, you’ll need to figure out if the offer is worth the risk. After all, a deal is only good if you get the product you were promised, and it actually works.

Understand that wiring money is the same as sending cash: Scammers will often insist that people wire them money, especially in the case of overseas transactions. This is a common method for scammers because it’s almost impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Don’t wire money to strangers, sellers that insist on wire transferring payments, or to anyone that claims to be a relative or friend in an emergency and wants to keep the request a secret.

Read your monthly statements: Scammers often steal account information and then rack up several charges or commit crimes in your name. Merchants on the take will bill you for monthly “membership fees” or other goods or services without receiving authorization from you. If you see any charges that you don’t recognize or did not approve, contact your bank, the card issuer, or other creditors at once.

Only give to established charities: After a disaster, a lot of people want to help. However, experienced scammers see disasters as a way to exploit kindhearted people who are trying to help do some good. This is why you should only give to established charities rather than ones that seemingly popped randomly into existence. These types of charities most likely don’t have the infrastructure to get help to any affected areas or people, and they might even be collecting money for illegal activities. 

Talk with your doctor before buying health products or treatments: Inquire regarding any research that supports a product’s claim—and any risks or side effects. Also, buy medications or drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you might end up with fake products, expired, or mislabeled ones—in short, products that could be potentially hazardous to your health

There’s no sure thing in investing: If you receive a call from someone telling you about low-risk, high-return opportunities for investment, stay away. Offers insisting you should act now, that guarantee huge profits, or promise little to now financial risk, or insist you send cash at once are to be avoided at all costs. You should also report them to the FTC.

What Not to Do

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know: Don’t send it to an online seller you’ve never heard of, or to an online love interest requesting money. Do business only with those sites you know and trust, and if you buy things through an online auction, think about using a payment option that gives you some protection, like a credit card. If you think you’ve found a good deal but aren’t sure, do your research! Look for things like “reviews,” “complaints,” or “scam” in the search engine, along with the company or product name.

Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back: By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but finding a fake check may (and can) take weeks. You alone are responsible for the checks you deposit, so if one turns out to be fake, you’re responsible to pay back the bank. Someone who overpays with a check is almost always a scam artist, no matter how convincing they may seem.

Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information: No matter if it comes as an email, phone call, text message, or an ad, don’t click on any links or call numbers included in the message. This is phishing. Scammers try to get you to reveal sensitive information to them. If you get a message like this and you’re concerned about your account, call the number on your credit or debit card, or the statement, and check on it.

Finally, don’t play a foreign lottery: It can actually be illegal to do so. Also, messages that tell you your chances of winning, or that say you’ve already won, are tempting. However, if they say you’d have to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect any prizes, then this is almost definitely a scam. If you have to send money to collect, you haven’t won anything. If you send money, you’ll lose it, and you won’t get any back either, regardless of any promises or guarantees.

Report Scams

If you think you may have been scammed:

  • File a complaint with the FTC. Outside the U.S., file a complaint at
  • Visit, where you can find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.
  • Report scams to the state Attorney General
  • If you receive unsolicited email offers or spam, send the messages to
  • ●      If you get what seems to be lottery materials from a foreign country through the postal mail, take it to the local postmaster.