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1. Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, such as a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you work with. Do not send money or provide personal information in response to an unexpected request - be it a text, a phone call, or an email.
2. Do online searches. Type the name of a company or product in your favorite search engine with words like "review," "complaint" or "scam." Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, such as "call the IRS." You can also search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
3. Do not believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see are not always true. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller may be lying, call back a number you know to be real.
4. Do not pay in advance for a promise. Someone may ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and debt offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They may even say you won a prize, but you have to pay taxes or fees first. If you do this, they will probably make money and lose it.
5. Consider how you will pay. Credit cards have great fraud protection built in, but some payment methods do not. The risk of money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it is almost impossible to get your money back. The same is true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies will not ask you to use these payment methods.
6. You have a conversation. Before you give your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Artists want you to decide quickly. They may even threaten you. Slow down, review the story, do an online search, consult an expert - or just tell a friend.
7. Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Do not press 1 to talk to someone or be removed from the list. This can lead to many calls.
8. Doubt about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and charge you monthly until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always check your monthly statements for charges you do not recognize.
9. Do not deposit a check and return the money. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but withdrawing a counterfeit check can take weeks. If a check you deposited becomes a counterfeit, you are responsible for paying the bank.
10. Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
If you find a scam, report it to ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement to investigate scams and bring fraudsters to justice.