Personal Finance 

How to Report a Scam

TelephoneWe just spent the last three days going over some of the more popular internet scams out there and today we’re going to do something about it.

One of the difficult parts about reporting scams is that there are so many scammers! It can feel like you’re fighting against the tide… the tide will keep coming no matter what you do. When it comes to scams like a fake Nigerian prince asking you for help or notification that you’ve won the Irish International Lottery, mark the email as spam and move on. The combination of a million scammers and the fact that they’re abroad makes enforcement nearly impossible. If it’s something more local or more involved, like a fake work at home job from a company located in the domestic United States, report it to the authorities.

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How to Recover A Stolen Identity

Hail to the Thief!Having your identity stolen is one of the most jarring things that can happen to you and your financial life. It’s difficult in part because of the uncertainty – how it was stolen, where it was stolen, how much of your financial life has been compromised, and the unknown of what the thief could be doing with your name. When someone steals your wallet, you are probably aware of it relatively quickly. When someone steals your identity, it can be months, even years, before you realize it.

In this latest post in the Financial Contingency Plan series, I explain how to prepare for and react to when your identity is stolen.

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Beware Charity Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sent me some information about some popular charity frauds going around lately.

I personally never respond to a solicitation. It could’ve come in the mail, through a phone call, or an email; I ignore them all. It’s not because I’m a heartless person and it’s not because I don’t trust the solicitation, it’s that I prefer to go directly to the charity. I don’t want to write a personal check and put it in the mail. I don’t want to give any sensitive information across the phone and I certainly don’t trust email, with all the scams and phishing attempts surrounding those. I know the charities we like to support and we generally go directly to their websites to donate.

However, given the tumble the stock market had over the last year, a lot of charities are turning to solicitations to get more donations because their trusts and endowments are hurting. This has opened up an opportunity for scammers and thieves, so the FTC has offered up some good information to help you combat that.

If you recently received a phone call from a “charity” and are considering donating money, I recommend you read the FTC’s Charity Fraud website for tips on how you can protect yourself and the people you’re helping. When you give money to a scammer, it only empowers them to keep on ripping people off. As more people get burned, they start avoiding charities and charities that support the people the scammer said he or she was collecting for. In the end, it’s the people you intended to help that get hurt the most.

I also wanted to spotlight two particularly poignant scams going on right now and how to protect them. The first involves scammers pretending to collect donations to support the troops, as in vets, active duty, or their families. The second is the result of an enforcement sweep of scammers that pretended to collect donations for police, firefighters, and veterans.

It’s great to help those who are in need, but not if the money is going into the pocket of a scammer.


Understanding the FTC Cooling-Off Rule

Frozen Ice CubesThere you are, minding your own business watching TV, when there’s a knock at the door. You open the door and discover it’s some kid selling magazine subscriptions, or a person selling the latest product fad (Sham Wow? Snuggies?), and they go into the hard sell pitch trying to get you to buy one. You tell them no but they are persistent and eventually, either because you’re sick of dealing with them or something about the Snuggie intrigues you, you buy it. When the door closes and the salesperson is gone, you’re angry because you just spent money on something you didn’t really want.

Fortunately the FTC has your back with the Cooling Off Rule.

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Beware Stimulus Check Scams

Stimulus Checks!I went to a conference of internet marketers a few weeks ago and spent some time learning from some of the best and the brightest in the industry. One of the things I came away with was the prevalence of “stimulus check” related scams that were floating around the web. I don’t think any of the people attending were involved in pushing these offers because the general consensus was that if you were involved, it was only a matter of time before the FTC dropped the hammer and penalized you heavily for your involvement.

Well, surprise surprise, the FTC released a consumer alert warning consumers about stimulus scams:
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