PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST SCAMS
 






TO BEGIN WITH...

A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE…IS LIKE...NIGHT.

SOME PEOPLE CAN DISH IT OUT…BUT THEY CAN'T COOK IT.
 
IF YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT YOU'LL GET CREDIT FOR…KNOWING WHAT YOU AREN'T TALKING ABOUT.

IF SOMEONE OFFERS YOU THE WORLD ON A PLATTER…TAKE THE PLATTER INSTEAD.

I have been doing a lot of research looking into the different types of scams that are out there. It's amazing how many there are.
 
Here are some of the most common scams.
 
Even though the ones I have picked out only touches the surface there are many similarities between them all. See if you can see what the similarities are. 

                           PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST SCAMS 
                                                                  By Lou Goldstein

We try to look for the good in people. That should be the goal. There’s an old saying that, “If you look for the good you will find good. If you look for the bad then that’s what you will find.” However, there are some people who just want to do bad things and will try to hurt you.

IF YOU THINK THERE IS GOOD IN EVERYBODY…YOU HAVEN’T MET EVERYBODY

For these people you need to protect yourself from getting hurt.  Before you can do this you must recognize that you are being threatened.

There are some general rules you should follow that will at least cause you to ponder and“test the water” before you “jump in".
 
Most scams fall into the category of “sounding too good to be true.” So, if it sounds too good to be true…back off…and at the very least … question it … and do your due diligence before proceeding further.
 
Do NOT… ever give out any of your personal information to a person on the telephone or by mail. This includes credit card numbers, social security card numbers, bank account numbers, phone card numbers, insurance policy numbers, or any account numbers of any kind.

Consider a stranger calling you on the telephone as an ENEMY that can’t be trusted…until or unless it is proven otherwise. Do not make any investment unless you can afford to lose your investment.
 
This applies to honest and even well thought out investment opportunities.
 
“If you can’t afford it … don’t do it.” Don’t be rushed into making a hasty decision because you must “act right away.”

Here are some of the most popular scams to be on the watch for:

By all means, these are not ALL of the scams. There are fraudsters who are right now thinking up the next great scam.

The Bank "Investigation"
You get a call from someone who identifies themselves to with your bank or a police detective who needs your assistance with an investigation. There are a variety of scenarios for this scam, but they all involve your withdrawing some money from your account.
 
You should ask for their name and phone number so you can call them back. This will usually put an end to it right there. If, for some reason they actually give you a name and phone number, hang up and call YOUR bank’s phone number, explain the situation and ask for their advice.

Work-at-Home Offers
You see an ad that offers you an opportunity to make money working at home. It sounds good to you. You are told that you can make money stuffing envelopes or any number of other easy to do things.
 
Usually, for an advance fee, they will send you “everything” you need to get started. What that generally means is that you will get some meaningless information with a request for more money needed to “supply” your at-home business. Be prepared to lose your money, time and effort and NOT make any money.

There is nothing wrong with checking out a potential opportunity. Just don’t act without researching it first. Try to get a physical address for the company. Try to personally meet with or talk to a company representative. Contact the Better Business Bureau in the company’s area. In other words, “Check it out" before investing any of your money.”

Phishing
This is a form of attempted identity theft that usually begins with an email. It follows the same pattern as the Bank Investigation scam we already discussed. This is a criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire your sensitive information such as usernames,passwords, social security numbers, credit card details, etc.

The communication you receive purports to be from any number of supposedly legitimate sources and will most often direct you to a fake website that appears to be almost identical to the legitimate one (such as your bank or the IRS, etc.)

If you are contacted about an account that needs to be “verified” (or any other topic asking for your information) you should contact the company that is being represented to be contacting you. Contact the “real” company directly… to see if the e-mail is legitimate.

Foreign Country Lottery Scams
You receive a letter or phone call offering to buy lottery tickets on your behalf in another country. You are told that the prizes are large and that the odds are very favorable.

For Example:

“Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One Lump sum! Your odds to WIN are 1-6.”  “Hundreds of U.S. citizens win every week using our secret system! You can win as much as you want."

DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM. You need to know that it is illegal to buy or sell tickets to foreign lotteries by phone or mail. People who do fall for this and send money to buy tickets most often receive a communication telling you that you have won a large jackpot and now need to send more money to pay taxes on your winnings. The truth is that there were never any tickets purchased
and there is no jackpot.

You may think that it is silly or stupid that someone would fall for this one but it happens all the time.

Federal law enforcement authorities are intercepting and destroying millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the truckload into the U.S. And consumers, lured by prospects of instant wealth, are responding to the solicitations that do get through  to the tune of $120 million a year, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The bottom line, according to the FTC...is to Ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country,
give it to your local postmaster.

The Nigerian Or Foreign Dignitary Schemes
While there are various kinds of this scam, the most common is one, is when you receive either a letter or email from Nigeria or some other seemingly important person offering you the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the sender is transferring out of the country. This person says he needs to transfer this large amount of money to the United States in order to protect
the money from insurgents or corrupt officials. The letter proposes that you allow the money to be transferred to your account, in exchange for a percentage of the money or some words to that effect.

All you have to do is to send sensitive information about yourself to the sender so that the process can be set up for you to receive this whole bunch of money. If you respond and send them the sensitive information the request… initially be prepared to have your identity
stolen.
 
However, that’s just the beginning. What happens next is that you will be asked to send a reasonably small amount of money (compared to the “tons” of money soon to be on the way to you). This money you need to send will be used for bribes to government officials, taxes, legal fees, etc. with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed to you as soon as the money leaves Nigeria, or wherever it’s coming from.

The facts are that the “millions” of dollars do not exist and the only thing that will happen is that you will only receive heartache and potentially catastrophic loss.

Once again, even though the average person looks at this for what it is…a laughable attempt at larceny….some people’s lives are ruined every year who do fall for this scam. In fact, according to the FBI, some people are actually lured to Nigeria where they end up in prison in addition to losing their money.

If you receive a letter or email from Nigeria, or anywhere else, asking you to send personal or banking information,
do NOT reply in ANY manner. Send the letter, or forward the email, (then delete the email)… to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Credit Card Fraud Protection Scams
Someone calls you and tells you that they are calling on behalf of your credit card company. They explain the importance of credit card fraud protection and recommends that you consider buying it. They try to make you believe that a computer hacker could get access to your credit card number and run up countless charges that you would be liable for. Actually this, in itself, is a false statement.
According to the law (federal) consumers who report charges to their credit cards that they did not authorize arenot liable for more than $50.

The intent of the scam artist is to prey on your fears and assure you that they will protect you. They might go on to say that they have been authorized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and need to verify your credit card information. They might say that your bank is offering this service free for a limited time. No matter what they might represent they only want to obtain your credit card information and will immediately charge your credit card for a grossly overpriced fee for something you don’t really need. Cancellation of this service is virtually impossible due to delays, excuses and busy phone lines.

Use the basic self protection method to avoid falling for this scam by asking the caller to send you information in the mail so you can think it over and provide you with a phone number that you can call them back. Also, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER (Did I say NEVER?) give ANY sensitive or important information to ANYONE you don’t know over the phone.

Other Credit Card Scams
There are many credit card scams. Most of them are conducted on the telephone. You might be called by someone that says they are from your bank…or credit card company…or police…or some security division.

They will tell you that there already has been some fraud committed on your card and they need your help in catching the thief. They will tell you that they need your credit card number, information and PIN #s urgently. They might even say to you that if you are uncomfortable giving this information over the phone, they will be happy to send a courier. At the same time they repeat the urgency of action being taken as soon as possible.

If you request a courier be prepared for an “official looking” stranger pulling up to your residence and taking your information, and then eventually, your money away from you because once they get this information, they will withdraw as much cash as they can, as soon as they can.

Once again, you can avoid being tricked by this or any other telephone scam by (here I go again) NEVER EVER giving your sensitive information to any stranger no matter who they say they are. Even if they do give you a number to call them back it could easily be a set-up. If you have any doubts you should call your credit card company or bank directly and ask if they have been trying to get in touch with you about a problem.

Your credit card company or bank has security measures in effect to verify your information and do not need you to give it to them over the phone.

What About Online Credit Card Fraud?
The popularity of purchasing goods and services online have created other types of credit card fraud. Before you give your credit card information to an online vendor it is suggested that you do some homework first (and you thought that once you finished school you would have no more homework.)

Check out the individual or company to make sure they are legitimate. Try to obtain a physical address (not a P.O.Box) and a phone number. Call the number to make sure it is working. Check with the Better Business Bureau from the area that the company is located. Send them an email to see if they have a working email. Look for a tiny icon of a padlock to indicate that the site is a
secure and reputable site. This is not a guarantee but it is a good indication. Be wary of unsolicited email offers. Be extremely wary of dealing with businesses from outside your own country.

If you have any doubts about the vendor after checking them out follow your instincts. If you feel safe it is advisable to use your credit card when buying over the internet because you can always dispute the charges if something goes wrong with the purchase.

Counterfeit Credit Cards
There are some scammers that will actually make a  counterfeit card that can be swiped at a store or machine.. All they need is your credit card number and the name of the bank. With that information and a blank plastic card they can create a magnetic strip on the back of the card. This strip  only identifies your bank  without any specifics. The next step is to duplicate the  embossed credit card number  and  expiration date on the front of the card. That is all they need. The other information can be whatever they want it to be. They can actually print a different bank and a different name on the front of the card.. That way they can produce a fake ID card that would match with the name they placed on the front.

The security departments at most banks are very adept at nipping this scam early. Usually because charges begin appearing at multiple locations at the same time. If the fraud department at your bank suspects a fradulent use of your card they will notify you to determine if a fraud is occuring. If so,
they will cancel your account immediately and reissue a new card(s) with a new number. You will also be credited back for any fraud charges that were approved before the fraud was discovered.

This also shows the importance of your keeping receipts and checking every charge to your card when you get the statement from the bank.

Advance Fee Loan Scams
A newspaper or TV ad seems to offer a guaranteed low interest loan or credit card regardless of your credit card history. Well, it just so happens that you need a loan or want a credit card and your credit history isn’t that good. Interested? Don’t be unless you want to lose a little bit of the money you do have.

Here are some tips that should alert you to the scam.

A legitimate lender will offer loans or credit cards for many purposes. A prospective borrower might need a loan to begin a new business or expand an existing one…. or consolidate bill payments. But a lender who doesn’t care about your credit record should "ring the bell of concern". Ads that say “Bad credit? No problem”… or…“Get money fast”…. or words to that effect (something for nothing)
often indicates a scam.

Banks and other legitimate lenders most always evaluate creditworthiness and confirm the information in an application before they guarantee firm offers of credit …even to those consumers that are credit worthy.

If you are asked for any “upfront fee” for any reason before granting a loan is your cue to RUN (don’t walk) away. Legitimate lenders or banks may charge fees for items such as appraisal or credit report fees … BUT… these fees are disclosed early on and take these fees AFTER the loan is approved... and from the amount you borrow.

If a loan is offered by phone and you are asked for an"advance fee"…...please know… that in the U.S. it is illegal to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before it is delivered. You might ask yourself, “If it is illegal why would they do it?” The short answer is it’s also illegal to rob banks. I’m just saying.

Some scam artists use names that give the impression of well known or respected organizations. They may actually pretend to be the Better Business Bureau. There is no end to the trickery and devious methods they will use.

So...just don’t believe it because they say it. If you feel somewhat interested because you do, in fact, need a loan, you should take steps to really check it out and protect yourself.

Always get a company’s phone number from the phone book or directory assistance, and call to see who answers the phone and check to see who they say they are. Ask them for a physical address if their advertisement showed a P.O.Box number. Although there are reputable companies that use P.O.Box numbers in their advertisements, they should also have physical addresses where their
actual offices are located. Once you have the address do as has been mentioned before. Check with the Better Business Bureau in their area to see if they have had complaints.

Beyond that you should also check to make sure that they are registered in your state. Lenders and loan brokers are required to register in the states where they do business. Contact your state’s Attorney General’s office or your state’s Department of Banking or Financial Regulation. Checking registration does not guarantee that you will be happy with a lender, but it helps weed out the crooks.

Don’t make a payment for a loan or credit card directly to an individual. In addition, don’t use a wire transfer service or send money orders for a loan. You have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction, and legitimate lenders don’t pressure their customers to wire funds.

Finally, just because you’ve received a slick promotion, seen an ad for a loan in a prominent place in your neighborhood or in your newspaper, on television or on the internet, or heard one on the radio, don’t assume it’s a good deal ...or even legitimate. Scam artists like to operate on the premise of legitimacy by association, so it’s really important to do your homework (there's that word again). If you do respond… without doing your homework… and fall for this type of scam (shame on you) you will invariably be asked to pay a setup “fee” in advance. This could be a couple hundred dollars.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency...
a request for an advance fee is the first sign of a scam. More than likely you will get an application and nothing else. You either never hear back or be told you didn’t qualify for the loan or credit card after all (what happened to guaranteed?) You will also find that any attempts to get back to the company will be futile and you will be out your money.

If you have debt problems, try to solve them with your creditors as soon as you realize you won’t be able to make your payments. If you can’t resolve the problems yourself or need help to do it, you may want to contact a credit counseling service.

Nonprofit organizations in every state counsel and educate people and families on debt problems, budgeting, and using credit wisely. Often, these services are low- or no-cost. Universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities also may offer low- or no-cost credit counseling programs. To learn more about dealing with debt, including how to select a credit counseling service, visit www.ftc.gov/credit.

Telephone Fraud Involving Jury Duty
The FBI is providing a warning to the public against an ongoing scheme involving jury service. The public needs to be aware that individuals identifying themselves as U.S. court employees have been contacting citizens (such as you) and advising them that they have been selected for jury duty.

These scam artists then ask you to verify your name and Social Security number. They might even ask for your credit card number. If the request is refused, you might be threatened with some action being taken against you.

PLEASE BE INFORMED... The judicial system does not contact people by telephone and ask for personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth or credit card numbers. If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals. This is an attempt to steal or to use your identity by obtaining your name, Social Security
number and potentially to apply for credit or credit cards or other loans in your name. It is an attempt to defraud you.

If you have already been contacted and have already given out your personal information, please monitor your account statements and credit reports, and contact your local FBI office. Local FBI field office telephone numbers can be found in the front of your local telephone directory or on www.fbi.gov.

Telemarketing Fraud
When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.

Once again, the early warning is when a caller (who you do not know) calls you and offers you a free gift or some kind of prize or another form of “something for nothing”. This is generally followed up with the usual “must act now” by sending money or giving your credit number over the phone before you have had the chance to consider the offer carefully.

The best way to handle this situation is to simply say,“no thank you” and terminate the conversation.

Before you buy anything by telephone, remember that legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.

Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.

If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them. But, unfortunately, understand that not everything written down is true.

SOME GENERAL ADVICE ABOUT CHECKING OUT ANY INVESTMENT ADVISOR
Here is a handy web site that gives you information about any person that offers their service to you as an Investor Advisor. The web site belongs to FINRA. It stands for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. FINRA is the largest non governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with the U.S. public. It covers over 5,000 firms employing more than 660,000 registered representatives.

To check out a broker or brokerage firm go to www.finra.org. Then click the site map at the bottom. Then, under market data click
tools and calculators .Then, under research tools click FINRA BrokerCheck. Now, click the link that says START SEARCH. Check the box that says you agree with the terms and conditions and click on CONTINUE. Now … you type in the broker’s name or brokerage firms name (whoever you are checking out) and click the appropriate circle…then click START SEARCH. When the correct name appears click the name that appears in blue.
 
You now have a page of information that gives you a comprehensive background and history including disclosures regarding any events reported by or about this broker to the Central Registration Depository (CRD) as part of the securities industry registration and licensing process. Examples of such disclosure events include formal investigations and disciplinary actions initiated by regulators, customer disputes, certain criminal charges and/or convictions, as well as financial disclosures, such as bankruptcies and unpaid judgments or liens.

Impersonation/Identity Fraud
Impersonation fraud occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act. The “bad people” can get the information they need to assume your identity in a number of ways. In addition to the ways that have already been discussed your information is obtainable if someone steals your wallet…or…taken from your trash…or…from credit card receipts…or…from
bankstatements…the list goes on. In fact, the list is too numerous that there is no sure fire method to prevent the theft of your identity. Sorry about that. I wish there was a way but the reality is that there isn’t.

You can, however, lower your risk by following a few words of advice.

Let’s start with some
DON’TS.

DON’T
throw away any receipts that would have any sensitive information. If you do not need or want to keep a receipt…SHREAD IT !  (Thanks for paying attention. The correct spelling is SHRED IT !)

DON’T ever give your credit card number over the telephone unless you initiated the call and know about the company or person you are talking to.

Now someDO’S.

DO check your credit card statements and bank statements every time you receive one and if there are any discrepancies report them immediately.

DO get a copy of your credit report at least once a year (FREE) and review it carefully. If you find anything questionable report it to the credit bureau in writing.  Make sure you follow through until they are explained or removed. AnnualCreditReport.com is the
ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that's yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your
credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion ... every 12 months. BEWARE….The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn't get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout  "free" credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report and that is 
AnnualCreditReport .com.

Go to their web site which is www.annualcreditreport.com for more information.

DO make a list of telephone numbers of anyone you might need to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, or any sensitive information. Keep this list handy and in a safe place.

Travel Scams
Most of us enjoy traveling. Going to new places, seeing new things and having fun. The only problem with this is that you are also seeing new people. Some of these new people want to ruin your vacation in any number of ways.
 
When I began doing my research on travel scams I was amazed at the many different schemes people have come up with to scam the traveler. I have been traveling for many years without any problems except for that “very scenic” cab ride we probably all get at some time or another when we visit a new city. It’s not that I am so smart it’s just that in most cases “I don’t trust anyone I don’t know in an unfamiliar situation”...
and so shouldn’t you.

I will list for you a bunch of scams that have victimized many people in the past. You will find them to be creative, unskilled, comical, sad, blatant, subtle, clever or just plain stupid...but they have all been tried(and worked) on many people.

Here we go…..

THE PICKPOCKETS. We know who these people are…here are some tips that may help you protect yourself.

First you must understand that pickpockets are not of the same mold. It is difficult to spot them in a crowd and that’s where they generally hang out. They are very clever actors and are known to use many different “props” to distract your attention away from them. They also sometimes work in teams. One will cause you to look one way while the partner catches you by surprise.

Your back pocket is NOT the best place to keep your wallet. The pickpockets know how to remove it from there. (Some people have been known to keep a “fake” wallet easily visable in their back pocket to trick the pickpocket.) I haven’t decided if that’s a good idea or a bad one. I mean why call attention to yourself at all. I’m just saying that some people do this.
 
Front pockets are safer …but a hidden money belt is even better. Fanny packs are not good at all (especially if the pack is on your back rather than your front). Purses and backpacks are favorite targets for pickpockets. If you do carry a purse hold it under your arm and protect it with your hand.

You should also “spread your wealth” around. Keep money, credit cards, and identification in different pockets so you won’t lose everything.

Pickpockets are also drawn to those who look lost or confused.Try to walk with a confident stride. Most pickpockets are looking for the “most obvious” mark.
You just need to avoid being that person.

OK, so you have done all you can think of to protect yourself and you become a victim. What next? You should have a list (or photo copies) of everything important you have on your person. Credit card numbers, bank cards, all forms of identification, health insurance cards, passport numbers, etc. MAKE SURE THAT THIS LIST IS NOT IN YOUR WALLET. Don’t laugh, you would be amazed at how
many people do this. Your list or photo copies should also be left with a family member back home. It’s also NOT a good idea to carry your social security card or any pin #s with you. These should be either memorized or written in some clever code you make up.

Once you have discovered that your pocket has been “picked” you should refer to your list and determine exactly what is missing. Act quickly.Call the credit companies and cancel the cards right away. Then, file a report with the police. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (if your license is stolen) and the Social Security Administration (if your Social Security card is stolen).
 
With your credit cards and identification, a thief could try to steal your identity, which could take years to sort out. Contact the major credit reporting agencies right away and set up a Fraud Alert so they know that someone might try to establish credit in your name.
 
In the United States, the three major agencies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Equifax works with the other two nationwide credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion,
so that when you request an alert through Equifax, your request is automatically sent to the other two agencies. Generally, the alert will be placed on your credit file with all three agencies within 48
hours.

To place a Fraud Alert on your Equifax credit file: Call: 1-800-525-6285               1-800-525-6285       OR Write to: Equifax Information Services LLC  P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348.

It's also a good idea to prepare a list of emergency numbers and addresses before your trip.

Pickpockets are going to be around for a long time, and there's not much law enforcement can do about it. But if you're informed and prepared, they'll most likely move on to a better target.

When I started writing about the bad people that are out there trying to scam us while we are traveling, as I’ve already mentioned, I had no idea how many different scams there are. The more research I did the more scams I discovered. While the names and types of scams might be different They fall into three categories... overcharging you... deceiving you (
or coercing you into paying for a service you don't want) ... and outright theft.

They are designed to get your money or business from you under false pretenses. Prevention is based on knowledge. Researching your destination will both alert you in advance to scams in the area and let you know what the usual prices and truly good sights are, so you will be less reliant on the approaches of helpful individuals when you're vulnerable.

At the same time, if you do get stung, don't be too hard on yourself. You were dealing with people who knew the location a lot better than you and with people who were out to deceive you. In some cases you were dealing with hardened criminals. If you think what happened to you was illegal and the police are trustworthy, report it, otherwise you'll have to chalk it up to experience. Note that if you wish to make a theft-related claim against an insurance policy, you will generally need to make a police report within 24 hours and
keep a copy for your insurance company.

Avoiding travel scams
Several bits of common sense may help you stay out of trouble, without needing to know exactly what scams are practiced in what areas.
 
If you have traveling companions, keep each other informed of the general outlines of your plans for the day.

Don't answer simple questions from strangers about what hotel you are staying at, where you are from, or what your business is (these may give them clues to how they might scam you in ways that you would never guess they could know).

Don't carry unnecessary amounts of cash or expensive toys around with you.
If you don't have it you can’t lose it.

Remember...that astounding deals and amazing winnings are as unlikely as they seem …and likely to be part of a scam.

Be wary of any stranger who seems to be singling you out for extended special attention, especially if they are trying to persuade you to leave your friends or accompany them to an unknown area.

Don't have your name printed on the outside of your bags. This prevents someone calling you by your name pretending to know you. It’s a good idea to have a piece of paper with your name and a contact number INSIDE your luggage in case it gets lost in transit…but not OUTSIDE. You can use some brightly colored ribbon or bow or some other ingeniously clever on the outside of your luggage so you can identify it easy. This will enable to spot your luggage quickly at the baggage terminal (before someone tries to steal it before you can get to it.)

You are not required to be polite or friendly to anyone if they refuse to leave you alone when you ask them to leave you alone.

Alcohol and other drugs affect your judgment and should be indulged in only among people you have good reason to trust.

Being in situations where you are among a group of strangers who are all known to each other and unknown to you give them a great deal of power over you.

Researching your destination, its general layout and the usual price ranges are helpful in avoiding many scams.

“I would like to help you”
These scams are based upon the idea of offering you help or advice that usually results in you paying for something you don’t need …or going somewhere you don't want to go. Some of these scams offered to you from “locals” can be outright dishonest but most of them are merely designed to get you to pay for something that you wouldn't pay for if you knew the area better.

One of the biggest traps of these kinds of scams is the desire for most people to be polite to people who are polite and friendly to you. The scam artist knows this and takes advantage of it. While you shouldn't become a hard-nosed nasty person, you should treat unsolicited offers of help with polite caution…. and when you are reasonably certain that you're being scammed, or are simply not
interested, there's no need to be polite in fending it off. Just state that you are not interested and walk away. If they persist… you can repeat in a firm manner that you are not interested …and continue to walk away.

You can also pretend that they don't exist, which means not making eye contact, not walking faster, not even acknowledging that you even notice them. Do not even respond if they call you a dirty name or do something else to attract your attention. This will sometimes discourage them and they will seek out someone else.

It is a basic “good rule” to be wary of any person who tries to force themselves into your personal space for any reason even if it appears they are trying to help you.

“ You don’t want to stay there”
You may run into a cab driver or someone that tries to tell you that the place you want to go to is either not there anymore or, if you have a reservation,
that it is too expensive or is in a bad area.

He will invariably tell you that he knows someplace better. The situation you might run into can vary. If you take his advice, you can be assured that not only will he be getting a commission for taking you there (increasing your room rate) but he could also be leading you into a trap where you might be victimized later.

You can thank him for his suggestion but tell him you are meeting some friends and that you want to go where you had planned to. Make sure that you know exactly where you are supposed to go. Have the correct name and address handy. You should also have the phone number in case you decide to call and let them know you are on your way. If possible, have a map in your possession with the route highlighted to your destination in plain sight.

“Please help me”
Some of the best actors in the world are not on TV or in the movies. Someone, very convincingly might approach you and in a panic stricken and convincing way and tell you that they were just robbed of all their money. They will make an emotional plea for some help even if it’s a small amount. You should suggest that they go to the police right away but that you don’t have any spare money available
to give them.

Other variations of this scam is when someone approaches you and asks for some money to buy medicine for their sick child or… asking for money for a “charity” (usually for children)…or…just plain old beggars asking for your money…or…any other “give me some of your money” ruse. In all of these situations you should in a polite and firm way say that you can’t afford it…or… (if you think you are a good enough actor)…tell them you were just robbed and ask if they could help you.

Someone might approach you and tell you that their car just ran out of gas. They will tell you that it is “just around the corner” and could you please help them out by giving them some money so they can buy some gas. DON’T DO IT !

“Taxi…Taxi”
There are many variations of taxi scams. The most popular one is the “long way there route” where the taxi driver takes you on a long route to your destination to get a higher fare. The only way you can prevent this if you are going to a hotel is to ask the hotel in advance what the taxi fare should be... or find out if the hotel offers a shuttle or other form of transportation. If you end up with the taxi and have
a knowledge of what the fare should be…sometimes you can negotiate a fixed rate with the taxi driver before you get in the cab.

Some words of advice about taxis.

You should wait to get in the cab until you are certain that ALL of your luggage has been loaded and get out of the cab when you reach your destination before it is unloaded.
I’m just saying.

Be alert also, for the taxi driver that doesn’t turn his meter on after he picks you up. If this happens be prepared for a fare far exceeding the normal rate. You should ask the driver to turn his meter on right away. If he says that it is broken or something to that effect
find another cab. If he tells you that you can trust him…DON’T TRUST HIM ! Even then it is possible that the meter has set higher than it
should be. That’s why, as noted before, it is always a good idea to find out what a fair rate should be getting to your destination before you leave home. You might check out the web site www.taxifarefinder.com for helpful information about taxi fares in many cities in the United States.

“Don’t forget my commission”
In most tourist areas throughout the world you will find situations where shops will pay taxi drivers or tour guides a commission for bringing customers (you) to their stores. The commission paid to these people is usually added to the price of what you might buy. This results in you being grossly overcharged. You need to watch out for someone who directs you to a specific shop or a tour guide
 that spends too much time taking you to shops rather than the sights you want to see.

If you see something that is of interest to you think about returning back to the shop later on your own. You might even be able to bargain for a lower price than what they quoted you because the shop keeper now doesn’t have to pay a commission to a driver. Instead, you can ask them to pay a commission to you. Sounds fair to me.

“Bargain with street sellers”
If you buy from a street vendor you canusually bargain for a lower price. In fact, most street vendors expect you bargain. That is why they price their goods higher to begin with. There is no set formula to go by except to offer a price much lower so that you can increase your offer and still be lower than the asking price. It kind of goes like this; You ask, “How much do you want?” The street
vendor says, “I will give you a good deal (lie) and charge you $10.” You say, “I can afford $4.” He says, “ No way, but I’ll let you have it for $8.” You say, “OK, I’ll give you $6 and it’s my final offer, yes or no?” He says, “
You are too tough for me, you can have it for $6.” This means you could probably have gotten it for$5  but, after all, he has to make a living and you are on vacation so no
big deal. This in an oversimplification but you get the idea.

It’s after you make your deal that you need to be especially careful. Check your change closely. If you are in a foreign country you might get change in a currency you are not familiar with. This could result in a change rip off that once you walk away you will have no recourse. To avoid this try to always carry with you currency in different amounts so that you can make a deal and be able to pay the exact amount and not require change.

“Diamonds are a girls best friend”
That might be true but diamonds, precious metals, works of art, and gemstones are also scam artists’ best friends. There are so many people that take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to make an “investment” at a “special discount” of gold coins, jewelry, pieces of art, rubies, diamonds, etc. You will be told that the sale ends today (maybe even in 5 minutes) and no checks or credit cards are accepted. The tip off is the “You must act now …and pay in cash pitch.”
 
The bottom line is thebasic philosophy of …”Don’t trust anyone you don’t know in an unfamiliar situation ! Sound familiar?

 If you do not have the expertise to determine the value of an investment of this nature and if you are not given the time to find an expert who might inspect and advise you…. DON’T DO IT. Oh, by the way, you also need to know that there are many“valuable” items sold in all forms of “investments’...that are counterfeit. In fact,
American import law only allows you to bring “only” one counterfeit item back into the United States from a foreign country…and you must declare it.

The government assumes that if you try to bring more than one counterfeit item you are probably intending to resale themillegally and they will make you pay a significant fine. They don’t give you credit for just being stupid.  So…..One counterfeit Rolex..Legal.  Two counterfeit Rolexes … Illegal. Another reason to “know what you are buying…or have someone you know with you that knows what
 they are doing.

“Let’s buy this antique in a foreign country”   Or, let’s NOT !

Fake antiques are commonplace. Even experts can be fooled.If you are not an expert you probably will be fooled. Here is another risk you encounter when buying antiques outside the United States. Many countries have strict laws and restrictions on antiques being exported from their country. If you have not done your homework about the laws of the country you are in you stand the
chance of having your items taken from you at the border when you attempt to leave and maybe even be assessed a fine.

In some countries a popular scam is for a border agent to confiscate your antique, turn around and sell it back to the antique store you purchased it at only for them to sell it again.

“Just follow me for something special”
I don’t care
what the “something special” is that you are promised...
don’t ever leave the area you are in to go with someone you do not know to a place you’ve never been. This prevents you from voluntarily offering yourself the opportunity to be mugged or even worse.
 
I’ve just realized something.

I’m not writing a book about scams. There are so many ways that people can try to take advantage of you that I could continue indefinitely.

But I won’t.

The underlying principles that allows the scam artists to succeed are greed, being too trustful, and ignorance.Not on their part…on yours.

You can protect yourself as well as possible by not being greedy (remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t),
don’t trust anyone you don’t know…do your homework before going somewhere out of your comfort zone…and do diligent research before making a final decision.

See you next time,
 
Lou