BOSTON (CBS) – This is National Consumers Protection week. This is a national campaign to help consumers make better-informed decisions and avoid being scammed.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some suggestions to help you avoid fraud.

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. Not to an online seller you’ve never heard of — or an online love interest who asks for money. It’s best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, use a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card or better still PayPal.

If you think you’ve found a good deal, but you aren’t familiar with the company, check it out. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what comes up — on the first page of results as well as on the later pages.

Never pay fees first for the promise of a big pay-off later — whether it’s for a loan, a job, a grant or a so-called prize. My niece’s in-laws paid the fees up front via Western Union for what they thought were the Canadian taxes on a lottery they won. When I asked what they did with their winning ticket they told me they never bought a ticket.

Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You’re responsible for the checks you deposit: If a check turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for paying back the bank. No matter how convincing the story, someone who overpays with a check is almost certainly a scam artist.

Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information. It doesn’t matter whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad. Don’t click on links or call phone numbers included in the message, either. It’s called phishing. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information.

One more thing: Report Scams

If you think you may have been scammed: File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Visit ftc.gov/idtheft, where you’ll find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Report scams to the State Attorney General.

If you get unsolicited email offers or spam, send the messages to spam@uce.gov.

If you get what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, take it to your local postmaster.

………………..

You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.

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