How to weed out scams

Written by Clint Turpen. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on March 08, 2012 with No Comments

When you read about as many examples of scams and identity theft as I do, you start to notice patterns. Even though the details may change, most scams are based on one of a few tried-and-true structures.

This actually makes it easier for you to avoid them, however. Instead of learning the minutiae of every new con job that comes down the pike, you can apply a few basic principles to steer clear.

One of those principles is similar to “Who Initiated Contact,” which I wrote about several months ago. This time the question is, “Did you take action that would lead to this transaction?” Here are a few examples.

Lottery Scams

Lottery scams always seem to come up but people still fall for them.   With a legitimate lottery, you begin the transaction by purchasing a lottery ticket. You then wait for the numbers to be called. If you win one of the big prizes you again take action by contacting the lottery office, presenting the ticket, filling out paperwork. If you don’t take this action, lottery officials might know when and where a winning ticket was sold, but they won’t contact you.

Lottery scams don’t start with any action on your part. Out of nowhere, someone emails you and informs you of a lottery you’ve won. It’s the exact opposite of how a genuine lottery works. The rest of the scam runs with the victim sending money.  But if you first stop to think, “Did I take action that would logically lead to this?” you’ll never get that far.

Employment Scams

Employment scams come in all shapes and sizes. The objectives range from taking your money outright to leaving you as the only traceable link in a money laundering scheme.

Most of the time when you find a new job it’s because you took some action first. You filled out an application, sent a resume, networked with people in the industry.

Employment scams often don’t wait for you to take action. You’ll get an email that claims you’ll make hundreds of dollars per day. You’ll be “hired” without an interview or application. Pay is often wildly out of proportion for the work you will perform ($10 to stuff an envelope, for example).  

There is a caveat here, though: not all employment scams can be weeded out this way. If you’re actively looking for a job and posting resumes on job websites, you’re taking action that could lead to employment opportunities.  Always research any company before you apply.  But also remember that high-paying job offers don’t just fall out of the sky.

Mortgage Settlement Scams

A scam recently surfaced in Virginia that targets homeowners who are struggling or in foreclosure. It starts with a phone call that tells victims they are owed money from a federal mortgage settlement.  It ends with victims revealing bank account numbers in hopes of receiving a check, only to be cleaned out by crooks.

The scam is based somewhat on fact.  Perhaps there was a settlement with mortgage lenders meant to make good on bad foreclosure practices. But those eligible still have to take action first. Applications and other paperwork have to be filed, and the homeowners have to be the ones who start the process.

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About Clint Turpen

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Clint Turpen, marketing specialist at Regional Federal Credit Union, is a certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist. He is an author at Regional Federal Credit Union’s Fraud Prevention Unit Web site. For more information, visit

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