With the cost of groceries, housing, gas and many other things rising, we are all looking for ways to cut costs. And, as usual when things get tough, scammers always take notice.
Scammers may zero in on your anxiety over money in several ways. They might say they’re from the government and giving away grant money for home repairs or unpaid bills. Or they have an investment that’s guaranteed to deliver quick and high returns. Or they know of a high-paying job that’s yours as soon as you pay a fee or give them your personal information.
To spot and avoid these types of scams, here are some BBB warnings:
· There are no government grants for individuals. Government won’t call, text, reach out through social media, or email you. In fact, real government grants require an application, are completely free to apply for, and are always for a specific purpose.
· And if you receive a wonderful message on Facebook or Instagram from one of your friends who tells you they got thousands of dollars from a government grant and had to pay only a few hundred dollars to apply, it’s a fake. Your friend never sent the message; their address book was hijacked by a hacker.
· All investments have risks. No one can guarantee a specific amount of return on an investment, or that an investment will be successful.
· Honest employers won’t ask you to pay to get a job. If someone claims you can make a lot of money in a short time with little effort — you just need to pay for starter kits, “training,” or certifications — that’s a scam.
· If they have a great job for you as a secret shopper or car wrap driver, and they send you a big check in advance that they want you to deposit, then take out much of the money to buy gift cards or have your car “wrapped,” don’t do it. The check is counterfeit.
· Debt relief – You may have rung up big balances on your credit cards or taken out a payday loan to make ends meet. Scammers will claim to be able to renegotiate or have the debt reduced. Of course, there is a fee attached to this “help.” Many of these are complete scams. A much better option is to contact your lender, explain the situation and arrange a suitable repayment plan.
· Fake coupons and giveaways –Nearly every day BBB sees social media claims from Wal Mart, Target, or other major retailers that offers a free gift card for taking a quick survey. If you follow that link you will be asked to provide personal and/or financial information. Equally dangerous, you can also upload malware onto your device. The goal is identity theft.
· Gas, gift, and discount cards – You get a text message or email saying you’ve won a $500 gas card. All you need to do is provide them with a credit card to cover shipping costs. That credit card will soon be maxed out and of course you’ll never receive the gas or gift card.
· Online shopping bargains – There are thousands of websites that offer products to help you stretch your dollar. There are some that are legit. But there are many that are scams offering products that don’t exist, that are substandard, or are never delivered.
The best thing to do to protect yourself and your money – be skeptical. Any time you see an offer that claims instant relief or requires an up-front payment and/or personal and financial information delete and move on.
Dick Eppstein is president of the Better Business Bureau, serving Northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.