Being a victim of financial fraud can be devastating.
The Morningstar website offers these tips for avoiding disaster:
Ask lots of questions. Question everything, especially if a deal appears too good to be true (it usually is). Probe with questions like, “Why are you offering this to me? What’s in it for you? Can I wait a few days before making a decision?”
Keep an eye on your accounts. Check your credit card and other accounts often. Keep your passwords private. If you notice any discrepancies, start asking questions.
Be careful on social media. Don’t share personal information, like your mother’s maiden name or the street on which you lived as a child, on social media. Scammers can use these to open accounts in your name.
Track your statements. Take a close look at your bank and credit card statements every month, looking for any charges you don’t recognize. Keep track of the dates you receive these statements so you can anticipate them, and react promptly to any delay.
Check your credit report. Credit reports are available for free once a year, so get them annually. You can also monitor your credit score from major bureaus, such as Transunion. If you notice an unexpected drop in your score, look into it.
Look closely at emails. You may get a special offer from a company whose name is suspiciously close to a legitimate business. Make sure there’s no extra “a” in “Amazon.com” before clicking any links or buying anything.
Beware of dating sites. Don’t get tricked into turning over personal information to a pretty face you met online.
Don’t send money to strangers. The “African prince” scam is well known, but other scams may ask for money to help refugees, veterans, the homeless, or victims of the coronavirus. Be skeptical before sending any money.