Protect yourself from fraud

The economic crisis has lead to an increase in many types of fraud including occupational fraud, Internet fraud, used car fraud, and mortgage fraud. The word fraud means an action or lack of action that is punishable by law. This includes outright deception, and sometimes almost “accidental” misrepresentation that causes damages. Fraud can also include the failure to reveal facts. The bottom line is that falling prey to fraud costs a lot of time and money. In 2007, the average loss was $3,091 per telemarketing victim. While it may be obvious that you should to steer clear of get-rich-quick schemes and phony contests, some types of fraud are not so easily detected. Unfortunately, thieves adapt as consumers become educated; fraud has seeped its way into more trustworthy covers including “charities,” credit repair, loans, travel, online auctions and work-from-home offers. Following are some ways to foil fraud:

-Be informed. You can educate yourself about current known scams by visiting IDTheftCenter.com.

-Practice due diligence. Before making any purchase, find out if any complaints have been registered with the Attorney General’s office. While a clean complaint record is not a guarantee, it is a step in the right direction.

-Be wary of high pressure appeals. For example, be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making. Legitimate companies should not intimidate you into making an on-the-spot donation or purchase.

-Be skeptical. If someone promises you an easy way to make fast cash, be wary. As the old saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

-Remember your budget. Even if a solicitation proves to be legitimate, ask yourself if it is really something you want. Remember, before they called you probably didn’t know you “needed” what they’re selling.

-Head them off at the pass. Ask telemarketers to put you on their “do not call” list. Under federal law, they are required to comply. If they continue to call you can sue them in small claims court. For information on how to stop unsolicited email spam, review your state’s laws at SpamLaws.com.

If you suspect a scam, call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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