Taking the Artistry out of the Scam: How to Avoid Being Taken for a Ride



Have you ever received a call advising you that there was a problem with your credit card and you gave your information to “fix” it? 

Did you receive a “prize winning” letter telling you about a free vacation and all you had to do was pay nominal fees for more and more add-ons? 

Has someone ever approached you regarding a charitable pledge you do not remember making or sending an email with a sob story to entice you to make one? 

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, you were the potential victim of a scam artist. 

Putting the words “scam” and “artist” together seems ironic, but this fraudulent activity accounts for millions of dollars in theft and the victims of scam artists are often the most vulnerable in our society including senior citizens and the unemployed.

Whether it is a bogus mortgage refinance company that promises to provide a family in crisis with help to save their home or a phony art dealer who tries to sell reputable fakes as masterpieces online, scam artists can be found all over with a wide range of tricks to scam innocent victims.

Scam artists take no holiday and even use disasters to steal money under the guise of a charity that often looks similar to well established ones or by using an appeal that touches a donor’s heart and pocket before rational thought kicks in.

However, the experts agree that it is important to take the time and to do the research to weed out scam artists to protect your assets and your identity. 

Victims of scam artists are encouraged not to take the law into their own hands, but to use the many resources available to address the situation. 

According to Scambusters.org, there are a number of methods to help fight scams and to prevent others from being victimized.  Here are the major ones.

First, you can report phishing to the real company. Webopedia defines “phishing” as the act of sending an email to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. By sending the email to the company, they can determine if it is real or a fake and take the appropriate action.  

Second, you can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), especially any suspicious scams from phishing emails, spam or chain letters, via spam@uce.gov.  The FTC receives information about potential scams daily and has the wherewithal to help prosecute the scam artists.

Third, you can report the scam directly to the FBI who, along with the National White Collar Crime Center, formed the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 addresses hacking, identity theft and money laundering.

Fourth, you can report charity scams to the Better Business Bureau as well as the charity itself.   This is especially useful for potential scammers who try to solicit via phone or door-to-door.   File a complaint with the BBB and contact them to see who is already on their list, or advise the charity directly that someone is misrepresenting their organization so that they can take action and preserve their reputation.

Finally, you can check ScamBusters.org to discover many scams that have victimized others to prevent it happening to you. Also, you can report any suspicious activities or unwarranted door-to-door solicitations to your local police department.  

If you need to confirm that an organization is the “real thing,” check them out on American Institute of Philanthropy or Charity Navigator.

          Avoiding scam artists is an art in itself that requires research and patience – but it is worth it. 

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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