Be a scam detective
HOW GOOD ARE YOU at recognizing a scam or
a con? More important, do you know what to do to
avoid being ripped off, having your identity stolen
or being conned out of your money?
Here are some common scams that could hit
you when you least expect it. See how good you are
at recognizing them, and knowing what to do if you
A message flashes on your computer screen:
“Warning! Your system requires immediate anti-
virus scan.” A free scan is offered. What do you do?
This incredibly common scam is almost guaranteed to occur as you use your PC. Upon first look,
it would appear that clicking “No thanks” would be
the right solution. Wrong. Clicking anywhere in the
on-screen alert can open the program further or
direct you to a website you have no interest in going
to. Worse, clicking anywhere in the on-screen alert
can instantly infect your computer with a virus that
can be difficult or even impossible to remove.
The solution is to hold down the Control and
Alt keys and hit “Delete.” Once the application tab
pops up, select “End Task,” then do a full scan of
your computer with the anti-virus software you
You are in financial trouble, and as a result your
credit is suffering. You have been approached by a
variety of services offering to repair your credit.
What do you do?
Although many companies offer to repair damaged credit, it can be difficult to tell which are legitimate. The most common scam involves a company
advising you to stop paying your creditors and
deposit money into a special account instead. In
reality, the debt-settlement company withdraws fees
from your account for “services,” long before it
negotiates with your creditors, if it negotiates at all.
If these companies send you an unsolicited
email or advertise on the radio touting a stellar track
record, it may be a scam. Stick with a legitimate
nonprofit counseling outlet with an established
track record, and always try to negotiate directly
with your creditors first.
When getting cash at an ATM, how can you protect
your debit-card data from scammers?
Despite the ease of use, it is important to be alert
and protect yourself when using an ATM. You
might not realize it, but with every ATM transaction
personal information such as your PIN and your
bank account numbers are exposed.
When sliding your card into the ATM, wiggle
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the card slot to make sure it is secure. This tests for
“skimming” devices that can steal your card’s unique
data. On most ATMs, a bright or flashing light will
indicate that the card has been properly inserted
and is secure. Only after the light flashes should you
proceed. When entering your PIN, cover the keypad
to block prying eyes or cameras.
You have made an online purchase and the item
never arrives, or the item is not what you thought
you were buying. What do you do?
If you made the purchase from a reliable company, review the return policy and keep all receipts
once you ship the items back. ( Costco.com purchases
can also be returned to any local Costco.) However, if
you made the purchase through a third-party entity
on a website such as craigslist or eBay, the solution
can be a bit more complicated.
Look for telltale signs of a scam
before charging your credit card. For
example, buying tickets can be risky, as
scammers often change one digit in
the theater address or the ticket
number, tricking you into buying
tickets you think are real, only
to be told they are fake once
you try to enter an event.
Beware of merchants
who provide you with only a
cellphone number; they
do this because cellphones
can’t always be tracked.
Look out for sellers who
ask you to wire money,
retail websites that don’t
list an address or a phone
number, and companies that
don’t have much of a presence or any reviews online.
These likely are scams.
It is important not only
to be educated as to the variety of scams out there, but
also to know how to protect
yourself, as well as to learn
what to do in the event that
you have been taken. C
I BOUGHT A treadmill from
a sports store in 2004. I had
a store receipt and work
order that said, “Hold for
pickup.” Unfortunately, I
misplaced both the receipt
and the work order by the
time I wanted to pick up the
treadmill. I returned to the
store with my credit-card
statement showing that
the transaction was posted
and paid for. The store
manager refused to deliver
the treadmill, citing the
missing work order. Years
have passed and I would like
to get this matter resolved.
Fountain Valley, CA
DO NOT BE discouraged that
years have passed since you
made the purchase. If you
spent money on an item and
it was not delivered properly,
you deserve some
sort of resolution.
Get an official copy
of your credit-card
2004 and bring it
in to your local
store. If they
still will not
credit you, do
an Internet search
for the executive con-
tacts for the sports store
and explain your situa-
tion. If the store no lon-
ger carries the treadmill
that you wanted, you
should demand a newer
model or simply get your
money back. You should
always get what you pay
for, no matter how much
time has passed.
© 2011 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGH TS RESERVED.
AMY CAN TRELL
David Horowitz is a leading consumer advocate. Visit his blog at
www.fightback.com. He is a frequent guest on radio and television
stations. Consult your local listings for dates and times.
Do you have a question for David?
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