High unemployment rates and a collapsed housing market have created the perfect incubator for scam artists.
Scammers are seizing on the financial fears of people desperate to accept offers that sound too good to be true.
"Unfortunately right now times are tough, and sometimes you let your guard down because you're more vulnerable," says Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter, a crime prevention officer. "It's a target-rich environment for these scammers because they know that."
Many scams are concentrating on those suffering financially, according to a recent story by the AOL Huffington Post Media Group.
Now more than ever, Baxter says you can't afford to let your guard down. Here are four ways to stave off financial scams:
- Follow that gut instinct. You aren't going to win a sweepstakes that you didn't enter.
- Don't trust your caller ID. Scam artists use spoofing websites to make it look like you're receiving a phone call from a known business. The caller explains that your account has been compromised and asks for account information to verify your identity. "Tell me a bank or company that calls you and starts asking you for personal account information and passwords," Baxter says.
- Scam artists play on victims' emotions. When a scammer calls and identifies himself as a family member in need of money immediately, he wants you to make a rash decision. No matter how believable the caller sounds, take control of the situation: slow down, think it through and make phone calls to verify what you've been told.
- Whenever possible, buy locally from a trusted source. While buying online can be more convenient, consider that the farther away you do your business, the more risk you take on. "The things that are great and convenient and easy for us are also easy for the scam artists," Baxter says.
By Emily Kittle