In these financially turbulent times, it is indeed hard to bring home a paycheck that lets you comfortably pay your bills, meet the family’s healthcare costs and the kids’ educational expenses, keep up with the mortgage payments, save for a family vacation, and keep aside something for the sunset years. You have to toil hard to make a decent living but you will need to work harder to keep your money from being grabbed by some others who are not willing to put in a hard day’s work.

The world is full of frauds who hatch elaborate scams to swindle hard-working people and make off with their hard-earned money. These financial scams usually masquerade as attractive get-rich-quick schemes and take advantage of the common man’s naivety. What makes it difficult to smell a rat is the fact that these scams come in various garbs. So, here is a list of the 10 most common financial scams and how not to fall prey to them.

Phishing Emails

The Internet is a happy hunting ground of the scam plotters and their most common bait to fish for unsuspecting individuals is the phishing email. This perfectly innocuous-looking mail makes its way into your inbox posing like one that has been sent by your bank, insurance company, or some other trusted institution and asks you to confirm your bank account or Social Security number. You may do so in good faith and thus end up revealing your sensitive personal and financial information to the scammer. Sometimes a phishing email asks you to click on a link that claims to redirect you to some trusted website. And when you click on the link, wham! Your computer becomes infected with spyware and malware that in turn, opens up a Pandora’s Box of trouble.

So, make sure that you call up your bank, mortgage company, or whosoever the phishing email claims to be from and confirm before you reveal critical personal details or click on any link.

Social Media Scams

On the Internet, a few clicks open up a mesmerizing world of information. And sometimes, a click is all it takes to expose your computer and sensitive information in it to a world of scammers. Many social networking site users may receive innocent-looking and apparently unspammy messages that are actually coded to invade and infect their accounts. When other users click on this infected account, the virus spreads.

Protect yourself and your social media accounts with anti-virus software, firewalls, spam filters, and your discretion.

Pre-Approved Loans on Advance Payment

Economic turmoil in the past few years has dealt a heavy blow to the credit history of many individuals who now find themselves unable to secure loans from reputable credit agencies. Scammers target this group of people and tempt them with loans once they cough up a certain amount of money as fee, which is an illegal practice. The scammers make away with this money and the loans of course, never materialize.

The only way to protect yourself and your money from these fraudulent individuals, groups, and white collar criminals is not to deal with any lending agency that acts philanthropic and claims it is not finicky about your credit history.

Gold Sale Scams

With more and more people selling off their assets in an effort to keep up with the increased cost of living and their mortgage payments, gold sale scammers are having a field day. These scammers pose as buyers and usually frequent shopping malls, set up offices in garages and hotel rooms, or prowl the Web armed with a website and a few fake reviews. They then fool you with their sweet talk and make off with your gold after cheating you on its price.

If you intend to sell your gold, then first make the rounds of a few pawn shops and obtain a fair idea about the value of your assets. This knowledge is absolutely essential to ensure that you can negotiate to your advantage and are not cheated.

Door-to-Door Sales

Take a deep breath before you answer the bell. The man on your doorstep with a disarming smile, impeccable manners, and a gift of the gab may just be a con artist who is out to cheat you into buying a trashy product or a service that you don’t need. Be especially wary of deals from contractors who turn up out of the blue, unsolicited, and promise an on-the-spot repair job and that too, at a discount.

Online Virus-Fixing Messages

There is no such thing as a free lunch. So, there must be a catch to the flashing pop-up that claims to fix the viruses on your computer with a piece of free software that you will have to download. And herein lies the catch. The moment you click on the pop-up and start the download, some piece of malware or spyware is installed on your computer. Similarly, beware of anyone who calls up claiming to be someone from an anti-virus software company and tells you that he can take you step-by-step through a process to clean your virus-infested computer. No one from any legitimate anti-virus software company will go around fixing viruses over phone. They are after all, selling their software to do the job.

Senior Financial Abuse

The scammers regard the elderly as sitting ducks. While physical limitations due to aging may make an individual vulnerable, you should guard yourself against being cheated by these cons. Be skeptical of anyone who calls you up himself and offers you a too-good-to-be-true get-rich-quick scheme such as free health care and so on. Nothing is free in this world and it is amazing how many people believe they can receive something for free. Moreover, carry out a thorough research into the credentials of the individual or the agency that has got in touch with you; a few clicks of the mouse or calling up your friends and acquaintances will give you all the information you need to make sure.

Penny Auctions

The biggest lure of a penny auction site is that it gives you a chance to grasp a striking bargain. But most of these sites charge for each bid you make. Many avid shoppers blinded by the lure, do not realize that they end up parting with more money than they had intended to and sometimes, without even acquiring the product as well. So, before you start placing bids at these sites, make sure that you have read their rules and understood them well. There is no other way to prevent the nasty shocks.

Energy-Saving Devices Sales

The rising costs of fuel because of taxes and regulations and the increasing demand for varied power-saving devices have given ideas to scammers. The markets and the advertisement columns are suddenly flooded with a host of devices and/or ads of devices that will magically slash your gas bills. Beware of these claims; many of these devices do not meet the energy efficiency standards laid down by the government and you will only end up wasting your money on them.

If you are keen to install energy-efficient devices in your home, call a certified energy professional and listen to their advice.

Con “Local” Locksmiths

It just seems that you cannot trust anybody these days. Not even the local locksmith. The locksmith who has listed himself with a local number might just be that supreme con artist who is calling the shots from another city. He tempts you into calling him with a USD 12 service charge and then charges you much more by claiming that you have a “special” door that required “more complex” work on it.

The only way you can prevent being cheated by contractors is to delve into their credentials before calling them.

You have to admit it. Financial scammers sure have a hand on the pulse of the people and with the lack of morality running around, these types of games are too common. They manage to plot scams that tap into the needs and aspirations of people and exploit their weaknesses. This just explains the proliferation of successful financial scams. But now that you have an idea of what such scams usually look like, make sure that you are on your guard always.

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