I recently received an envelope in the mail containing a check for $3800. The accompanying letter described it as my partial winnings from a British lottery. The odd thing was, I didn’t enter any lottery. I don’t buy lottery tickets. I don’t gamble at all. It’s not that I have any objection to these practices; it’s just that I don’t consider such things a productive use of my money. But $3800 in winnings could make me reconsider my stand on the subject…
Upon further reading, the letter instructed me to deposit the check, then send them $2000 back to “pay the taxes” on my total winnings which amounted to $10,000! Now, as big and exciting as those amounts were, I was, of course, suspicious. After all, I had entered no lottery. Yet the fact remained that there in my hand was what appeared to be a real check for $3800, made out to me. That would certainly be a welcome addition to my checking account. What was there to lose? The answer is: plenty.
My skepticism led me to investigate the situation and, sure enough, it was a big, fat scam. Here’s how it goes: Once you deposit the check (which is real) and send $2000 back in order to redeem the rest of the prize money, THEY STOP PAYMENT ON THE CHECK! Not only did you not win anything but they’ve bilked you out of two grand!
That’s my most recent run-in with a scam. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to look into it before I was duped. Unfortunately, unscrupulous operators are everywhere, making it necessary for us all to keep our guard up, lest we be taken advantage of.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to a scam:
- When a situation seems too good to believe, it always is - As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, know and believe with your whole mind and heart that riches will not simply drop into your lap. Yes, there are bargains in this world but there’s a limit to what you can get for free or for ridiculously cheap. Always.
- Don’t be pressured - Scammers will try to rush you into a decision or action so you won’t have time to think it through or research it. They count on you losing your better judgement while caught up in the moment. Any legitimate opportunity will allow time for you to “sleep on it.”
- Adopt a sceptical mindset - Realistically speaking, it can be a dangerous world out there. As the planet becomes more connected through technology, opportunities for scammers to scam become more prevalent. It’s up to us to keep a vigilent eye toward our personal security.
- Check it out - When in doubt, google it! Educate yourself about situations and opportunities that have scam potential by conducting some online research. Chances are you’ll find others who’ve come up against the same unscrupulous scenario.
- Check your greed - Scammers would have a much more difficult time scamming if human nature didn’t skew toward greed. Keep your greedy tendencies under control and you’ll keep scammers at bay.
- Trust your instincts - You know perfectly well when something doesn’t smell right. If you get a less-than-legitimate vibe from a situation, take a step back. Err on the side of caution; most likely you’ll be correct and will have dodged a bullet.
- Take action - Make your encounters with the unscrupulous count by reporting scams to the appropriate agencies, like the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. You’ll be helping others avoid being scammed and help stop scammers in their tracks.
How do you detect a scam?