Sunday, January 8, 2012

No More Rip-Offs

Every year, thousands of people get ripped off by scams that seem obvious and easy-to-avoid - at least in hindsight.

Problem is that even the savviest among us can fall prey to silly frauds because we all let our guards down at least once in a while. And distracted, exhausted small business owners are especially prone to falling for cons just because they are so busy trying to make a living.

The Better Business Bureau has established a new Scam Source website where you can check out and report scams. They've also released the Top 10 scams of 2011, with the supreme irony that the year's worst scam was a phishing email that purported to come from the BBB itself:
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from BBB. The subject line says something like “Complaint Against Your Business,” and the instructions tell the recipient to either click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If the recipient does either, a malicious virus is launched on their computer…a virus that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information needed for cyber-theft.
What can you do to protect yourself? There are a whole host of commonsense precautions you can take, particularly to avoid increasingly prevalent online scams.

One rule that's helped me: I never give money over the phone. To anyone. Period.

If a legitimate charity is soliciting your donation, they will be happy to send you a physical letter with information on their organization. You can then check them out with a rating group like Charity Navigator and make an informed decision about supporting them. If they are scammers, they'll give up (or you can hang up) when you ask them to mail you information about their group.