PLAY IT SAFE!
- Never click on a link inside an e-mail to visit a website. Instead, type the address into your browser, or even better, Google the company or sender to see what you can find out. (Did you know that some websites track your exact location by collecting the IP address from your computer?)
- It’s easy for a business to look legitimate on-line. Use caution with patronizing new businesses. Google reviews on-line, but remember, someone at the business in question might be posting positive reviews about that business. Watch out for a lot of complaints and a few glowing reviews. The complaints are probably legitimate and the reviews are likely being posted by the company to offset the negative rating on websites like www.yelp.com and www.epinions.com.
- Keep track of what you order on-line, and follow up if you don’t receive it within the expected time. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you 60 days to contest the charge on your credit card if you do not receive the item (or if there are other errors on the bills). After 60 days, you may be out of luck, so stay on top of it! http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/errors.html For other credit protection laws, see http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/regs.html
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card to place orders. Debit cards, though they bear the Mastercard or Visa logo, are not covered by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Mastercard and Visa, along with most banks, have a policy of honoring the same rules, but that is policy–not law. If you don’t have a credit card or prefer not to use a credit card, consider using a service like www.paypal.com, which provides protection for purchases made using Pay Pal.
- Do not e-mail your personal information, including social security number and date of birth. Only 2% of identity theft occurs through the mail presently; most of it happens on-line! Report on-line fraud to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
- Shred documents which contain personal or confidential information; don’t simply throw them away or recycle them.
- Keep your packing slips and receipts, and check them against your credit card statement.
- If you bank on-line or pay your credit card on-line, choose passwords that are difficult or impossible for others to guess, or for hackers to crack. Use a combination of letters and numbers, and don’t use your pets’ names, or any obvious fact or hobby known to many about you.
- Watch out for e-mails or contacts pressuring you to act “right away.” Urgency can often be a warning that the transaction is not legitimate.
- Watch out for anything that guarantees success. This is a definite red flag!
- Watch out for anything which requires an upfront investment–even for a “free” gift.
- Trust your intuition! If it doesn’t look or feel right to you, walk away!
FACTS ABOUT FRAUD:
- Your bank will never e-mail or call you for your account number.
- Don’t wire money to people you don’t know.
- Be cautious of work-at-home job offers.
- There are no legitimate jobs that involve reshipping items or financial instruments from your home.
- Foreign lotteries are illegal in the U.S. You can’t win no matter what they say.
- Check your monthly bank statements for charges you don’t recognize.
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus once a year by using www.annualcreditreport.com
The United States Post Offices has a website dedicated to making people aware of fraud and scams through the mail: http://www.deliveringtrust.com
If you receive a suspected fraud through the U.S. Mail, you can report it to: postalinspectors.uspis.gov or 1-877-876-2455. The mailing address is: U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Criminal Investigations Service Center, Attn: Mail Fraud, 222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60606-6100.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency, and also works to stop fraud. To get more information, go to www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Remember the old adage: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is!