Online Security

10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud

Crooks use schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.

  • Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Do not send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.

  • Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

  • 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 real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

  • Do not pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. You may be told that you have won a prize, but first, you must pay taxes or fees. If you do, the scammers will probably take the money and disappear.

  • Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built-in, but some payment methods do not. Wiring money is risky because it is nearly impossible to get your money back. That is also true for reloadable cards and gift cards. Government offices and honest companies will not require you to use these payment methods.

  • Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, or consult an expert.

  • 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 speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

  • Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company, and read the cancellation policy. Always review your monthly statements for charges you do not recognize.

  • Do not deposit a check and wire money back. By law, financial institutions must make funds from deposited checks available within days but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you are responsible for repaying the financial institution.

  • Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

If you spot a scam, report it at


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