Today’s criminals are shrewd scammers and utilize the most modern technology to steal your money. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates 25 million people have been affected by fraudulent activity.

Please use these tips by the FTC to help protect you, and stop them!

Spot phonies. If it seems too good to be true, it is! Scammers pretend to be someone you trust. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to any request whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email. Even if they tell you someone is in trouble and they need money now, ask for return contact information so you can do some research. Chances are they will hang up.

Use the Internet. Search the company or product name and add “review,” “complaint” or “scam” to your search criteria. Do a search describing your situation, like “IRS call.” Did you receive a phone call or text, then search the number to see if other people have reported them.

Caller ID is not effective. Technology makes it easy to fake caller ID. The name and number you see are most likely fake. If someone calls asking for money or information, hang up. If they are a legitimate business they will give you their contact information and respect that you need time to research them.

Do not pay in advance for a service. Regardless of what you think you might be getting, scammers will take that money and disappear. Just don’t do it. There are no prizes to collect, no one is miraculously going to get your debt cancelled or IRS issues resolved. Again, do not send money or give account info! Think about all the other services you use, they all get paid after work is completed!

How you pay matters. Reputable business will not ask you to pay via unsecured methods. Credit cards have fraud protection built in, but wiring money, reloadable cards and MoneyGram type services are not only risky but you will not get your money back if there is an issue. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0090-using-money-transfer-services

Hang up on Robocalls. A robocall is a phone call with a pre-recorded message. Hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, don’t press any numbers to continue, that actually creates more calls.

Free trial offers are never free. Companies use free trials to sign you up and bill you every month until you cancel. As we said above do your research and try to find others using the product or service for a personal review.

If you have given your credit card number make sure to check the statement every month for charges and read the fine print.

If it seems fishy it is. Don’t deposit a check into your account from a stranger and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days. However, uncovering a fake check can take weeks and if your deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for the bounced check fee to the bank with no chance of getting your money back.

If you are the victim of fraud do not be ashamed. Criminals make a living out of scamming people and they need to be reported. The FTC reports that $744 million was paid out to scammers in 2016. The majority of these were payments made over the phone. Check in with younger kids you know who may not have the experience to recognize scams. Elderly people are at the top of a scammer’s list. They can be confused easily, mistake a person for someone they know and easily fall victim to these crimes. Teach them tips to handle these calls.