Tips to avoid becoming a scam victim

By Helen Huntley, Times Staff Writer
Published March 2, 2008

- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

- High yields always equal high risk, regardless of what anybody tells you.

- Assume any solicitation for a foreign lottery or sweepstakes is a scam, as is any request that you assist someone in transferring money or claiming an inheritance.

- Never send payments to strangers by money order or by Western Union or similar wire. Fraud is a particular problem with payments sent to foreign countries.

- Don't do business with people you don't know who solicit you by telephone or over the Internet. Never give out bank account or credit card numbers or personal information to solicitors.

- Never click on links contained in e-mail purporting to be from the IRS, your bank or credit union or anybody else asking for information about your finances or your Social Security number. The IRS does not contact taxpayers by e-mail. Call your financial institution if you receive an inquiry you think needs a response.


Where to report suspicious communications:

- U.S. mail: If an item came by mail, give it to the postmaster or postal inspector in your community.

- E-mail: Forward any spam e-mail to the FTC at spam@uce.gov and those purporting to be from the IRS to phishing@irs.gov Some banks have information on their Web sites about how to report phony e-mail.

- Telephone: If you are on the "Do not call" registry, file a complaint at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free (888) 382-1222.


If you have lost money to a fraud, call your local law enforcement agency. Others who investigate fraud and may be interested in your case include:

- Florida Attorney General's Office: Fraud Hotline. toll-free 1-866-966-7226

- Florida Office of Financial Regulation (investment and bank fraud) 1-800-848-3792

- Federal Trade Commission consumer complaint form  

- U.S. Postal Service: Mail fraud. Contact local postmaster or fill out mail fraud complaint form  

- Florida Department of Financial Services (insurance fraud) 1-800-342-2762 or create an online complaint form (register first to do this) 


Additional Web resources:

Securities and Exchange Commission on penny stock fraud: click here

Wikipedia on pump and dump schemes: click here

Federal Trade Commission on investment schemes: click here

Federal Trade Commission on identity theft: click here

U.S. Postal Inspection Service on check fraud, identity theft and other scams: click here

Florida Department of Financial Services consumer guides: click here


Have you been involved in a scam and would like your story told? E-mail Helen Huntley at hhuntley@sptimes.com or Becky Bowers at bbowers@sptimes.com.