There are many aggressive and creative ways to attempt to steal your money and obtain personal information, whether it is via a telephone conversation or an e-mail. There are also ways to avoid falling prey to these attempts.
No legitimate company will solicit personal information from you via telephone or online. Furthermore, no legitimate contest, sweepstakes, or other prize-based offerings would expect any money from you in advance or need your Social Security Number before they can process a claim. Sheriff Todd indicates, "No one should need money to give you money."
To protect yourself, always remember to ask for information to be provided in writing which will give you a chance to review the material before making any decisions. NEVER respond immediately with any information over the phone or by answering an e-mail.
NEVER give out any personal information over the phone or via an e-mail until you have verified that the company being represented is legitimate. Verify the phone number or name of the company or person(s) contacting you before responding. You can usually get information about the calling company's name via the Internet by searching through the Better Business Bureau.
Do not respond to unsolicited e-mail and never open an e-mail from a sender with whom you are unfamiliar.
Be suspicious of unexpected emails from your bank or financial institution. Remember banks don't do business via email and never ask for confidential information via email. If you get an e-mail from a bank or company with whom you are familiar, don't reply to the e-mail. Go to their web site to look up the information being offered to see if it is legitimate.
Report any potential scams to your state Attorney General. Try to provide that office with the most information you can obtain from the potential "scammer." The more information you can provide will lead to a more productive investigation.
"Beware," says Sheriff Todd. "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is."