As financial scams evolve to keep pace with the changing American economy, it is important that consumers educate themselves about common scams. Here are five steps consumers can take to avoid becoming a victim of financial fraud.
1. Research: Before handing over money, look into who is receiving it. Go online to see what others are saying about a company. If a caller claims to be a relative, ask him or her a few questions that only a relative would know.
2. Conduct Due Diligence: Due diligence is especially important when working with someone claiming to be a lawyer, as they may not be. According to the FTC, the first question a person should ask is “Are you a lawyer,” to ensure you are entering into an attorney-client relationship.
3. Protect Personal Information: When entering personal information online, such as your name, date of birth, and/or social security number, even if it’s to confirm your identity, consumers should ask themselves how much they trust the website. Even a transaction that appears to be low risk can make you vulnerable.
4. Use a Certified Housing Counselor: Homeowners having trouble making mortgage payments are advised to speak with a certified housing counselor, who usually charges only a minimal fee, or, in many cases, are free. Counselors approved by HUD can be found at http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/get-assistance/counselor/Pages/default.aspx
5. File a Complaint: If you do become a victim of fraud, file a complaint to make the problem known. The FTC says that consumer complaints are how they know what’s going on in the marketplace. Consumers can file complaints with the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, the FBI, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the state’s attorney general’s office.
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