How to Avoid Scams and Keep More of Your Money
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But, you guys, these things happen all the time! And while I certainly don’t want to tell a national audience how much pizza I ate last night, I will tell you this: MILLIONS of people are falling for seemingly obvious scams.
In fact, over a period of 12 months, 10% of American adults lost money in a phone scam. And on average, each scam victim lost $430, totaling $9.5 billion!(1) We could have sent that money toward, oh I don’t know, the national debt or something.
Unfortunately, in our world today, the lines between a real deal and total fakes get blurred pretty easily. If we hope to spot scams early and hold on to our hard-earned money, we have to be educated. So, let’s talk about what to look for and be on guard against!
Scam Slogan: If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. The ability to shop, pay bills, and connect with friends online makes life so much easier, right? But it also leaves us vulnerable.
You might get an email congratulating you on winning $1,000 and think to yourself, I could really use $1,000. Hey, I could put that toward my starter emergency fund and move on to paying off debt. Yeah, I think I WILL claim my prize!
But if it seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.
And that rule isn’t exclusive to the internet. It applies to any exchange of money or information. You might ask yourself, Does this pass the gut test?
Unfortunately, even then, you might be wrong. Which reminds me . . .
Real Talk With Rachel
Winston loves Craigslist. It’s his app of choice. He’s the guy who’s always scrolling for great deals and uploading pictures of stuff to sell while everyone else is enjoying Instagram.
A while back, he decided to sell a laptop. He arranged a time and public place to meet with a woman and watched as she counted out the money—hundred-dollar bill after hundred-dollar bill.
He handed over the laptop and walked toward his car thinking about how easy a deal that was.
But when he went to pocket the money, something seemed off. The cash didn’t feel like cash. It looked different; it even smelled different. So Winston walked back toward the woman and called out, “Hey, you gave me fake money!”
And then—you guys, this next part is totally true—she ran over, took back the counterfeit cash, threw the laptop on the ground, hopped in a truck, and sped off! I mean, it was like a scene out of a movie! The only thing missing was a near-death experience.
This story just goes to show that even when the evidence is right there in front of you, a scam can be tough to spot! And that’s where the inspiration for today’s money challenge comes from.
Money Challenge: Be prepared for your next deal. Shopping and selling on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and eBay may be common—but so are scams. Get my quick checklist to make sure your next deal is legit.
Common Scams and How to Avoid Them
All this talk about how smooth scammers are and how detective-like we aren’t can make us feel pretty discouraged. But with some helpful knowledge about what’s out there, we can be better prepared to dodge scams at every turn. So, let’s talk about some common scams and how to avoid them.
You’re probably getting scammed if:
- You win a free trip to Europe—without entering any contests!
- You get an email or letter with tons of grammatical errors and typos.
- A caller pressures you and requests immediate compliance.
- You meet someone online, you fall in love, and then they suddenly need money.
- You’re told you can make tons of money by putting in minimal hours working from home.
And before you think, Who would fall for scams like those? let me tell you that people fall for them all the time! In fact, I recently heard on the news that a woman here in but never in person. Stories like that break my heart!
The truth, as much as we hate to admit it, is that we’re all susceptible to scams. But, there are some simple things you can do to have a better chance of avoiding them:
- Use your brain. God filled that noggin’ of yours for a reason. As Joey Tribbiani from Friends would say, “Not just a hat rack, my friend.” Make a habit of pausing for a moment to give your common sense time to work.
- Wire money wisely. Never send money to someone you don’t know. And by know, I mean you’ve shook hands with them on more than one occasion and you wouldn’t have trouble finding them if the deal goes bad.
- Protect your information. Don’t give out your Social Security number or account numbers over the phone—businesses won’t call you to confirm information they already have on file. And don’t log into your bank account on public Wi-Fi.
Advice From the Scambuster Himself
In today’s episode, I speak with Brett Larson, morning anchor on Fox News Headlines 24/7 on SiriusXM. He’s a technology expert and covers scams all the time, so he definitely knows what he’s talking about. We discuss the top scams he sees, and he offers a few special tips to keep you safe, including:
- Scams are getting more personal. If a friend messages you through social media claiming to have been robbed while in another country and asks you to send money over ASAP, don’t! Instead, pick up the phone to call your friend and confirm. Chances are they were hacked, not robbed.
- Scams are still taking place over the phone. If someone from “Apple” or “the IRS” calls you and asks you for log-in information, your Social Security number, or other personal information, don’t give it out. Instead, ask them questions to make sure they’re legit. Chances are, it’s a scam and they’ll back down pretty fast.
- Scammy emails are looking more official. If you receive an email from one of your service providers with a link, don’t click it! Instead, log in the way you normally would or call the number on the back of your latest statement to verify your next step.
And as for that Nigerian prince email? Brett says that one has been around for 20 years and counting—which means people are still falling for it, so be aware!
Scamming Websites Alert: Where Hackers Lurk
How many of you pop into Starbucks for a coffee, take a look at the news, and then do a quick check on your bank account? Yeah, totally guilty.
But I learned from a couple of our IT guys just how dangerous that can be! Chelsea and Stephen join me on today’s episode to give us the lowdown when it comes to getting hacked over the internet. Here’s what you need to know:
Anything you look at on your computer or phone while using public Wi-Fi can be viewed by anyone around you who knows just a few simple tricks. Scary, right?
To protect yourself in public spaces, make sure to:
- Steer clear of personal sites
- Keep your computer and phone software up-to-date
- Install antivirus software
The Importance of Top-Notch Identity Theft Protection
Even when we put up safeguards, identity theft can happen. My mom found this out during the Equifax breach last year.
It’s important you know how to protect yourself—start to finish. That’s why I recommend Zander Insurance. They can help protect you against all types of identity theft, including financial fraud, medical identity theft, tax fraud, and more. They’ll also constantly monitor your personal information and alert you if something fishy is detected!
Winston and I use them and, guess what, even our daughters are covered! Each family member receives $1 million in reimbursement protection, which includes recovering stolen funds from your bank account. Visit Zander.com today to check out their affordable individual and family plans and to get signed up!
Keep your family’s identity safe and sleep peacefully at night.
The Almost Scam: Sneaky Sales Tactics
It’s not just hackers and scammers who are trying to get their hands on our money. Retailers also have a few tricks up their sleeves, and some of them even involve targeting our five senses as a way to encourage more spending. Here’s what I mean:
The sense of sight
Colors send a message. Red creates a feeling of urgency and makes us want to take action; blue communicates that prices are reasonable; and black makes us feel luxurious for even considering a purchase.
Roadblocks require us to walk around large, enticing displays to get where we need to go.
And grocery stores put basic necessities—like milk and eggs—toward the back of the store, forcing us to snag chips, ice cream and pizza along the way. (Okay, force may be a bit strong, but the word feels right.)
The sense of touch
Merely touching a product makes us want to buy it more. This happens to me when I’m shopping for the perfectly ripe produce or a new makeup brush.
The sense of smell
Smells trigger memories like nothing else. You know this, right? A plate of fresh-baked cookies at an open house makes you think of your childhood—so obviously you must buy that house! Stores also use smells to up the validity of their products. For example, shoe stores pump the scent of leather through the vents. Yes, please!
The sense of sound
Music sets the shopping mood. Slow music encourages you to take your time, sample all the options, and spend more than you planned. Fast pop music encourages impulse buys in a fun, casual, who-cares-about-the-budget atmosphere.
The sense of taste
Costco samples anyone? It never fails that food sampled becomes food bought. Never mind that half the time it doesn’t taste the same at home. If I try it, I’m probably going to buy it!
The Ultimate Scam Tactic
On today’s show, we talk a lot about scams and how shady people want to steal our money. But there’s another way you can lose money, and that’s when you scam yourself. It’s not only shady people who are enticing our money out of our bank accounts!
Going over budget or choosing to take on new debt are not “no big deal” situations. Those actions rob your future potential. If you want to save money, you can’t talk yourself into buying things you can’t afford or spending money on things that aren’t in the budget.
Remember what you’re working toward: creating a life you love. Not a moment you love, a life.
And if you’re looking for a great way to stay inspired and on track, let me point you in the right direction: Financial Peace University. This proven program will give you the plan AND the motivation you need so you’ll never have to worry about money again.
She Works Hard Saving Money
You know who doesn’t worry about money? People who save, that’s who! Back to my favorite part of the show—giving a shout-out to the folks who are sharing their stories using the hashtag #sheworkshardsavingmoney. Here are two of the best from today’s episode:
“Negril, Jamaica last week. Cash-flowed and our first trip since being credit card debt-free. We also cash-flowed replacement items when the airline lost our luggage.” — Kathy
“It’s the end of the month, so it’s my wife’s favorite time! Time to color in the saving goals we have accomplished! We budgeted, we have stuck to it, and we have achieved our goals for June! Living like no one else, so later we can live like no one else!” — Daniel
Alright folks, you know what’s out there when it comes to scams, so arm yourself. Use your brain and protect that money so you can create a life you love!