If you are typically generous and trusting, you may also be susceptible to the most common types of consumer fraud. However, even people who are naturally cautious or even suspicious may fall victim to a scam.
Because some people feel embarrassed at their vulnerability, they don't always report cases of fraud to authorities. That's why it is difficult for federal agencies and consumer protection groups to accurately report how many people are defrauded each year. However, if you have recently been victimized by a consumer scam, you are in the company of thousands.
Playing to your human nature
Common scams involve fake charities and lotteries. These are highly lucrative because they appeal to your generosity and your desire to be successful. Lotteries often begin with a person contacting you about an award you have won. The person then requests money to pay the taxes on the prize. After you send funds, the person may demand more and more money or trick you into giving your bank account or debit card information.
Fake charities work especially hard during natural disasters when you may feel moved by the tragedy of others and eager to help. They operate in much the same way as legitimate charities, which may make it harder to recognize that it is a scam. Consumer protection advocates recommend never giving bank information to strangers, caving to high-pressure tactics or sending money until you have verified the legitimacy of the organization.
Preying on you at a time of distress
If you are behind on your mortgage, some unscrupulous real estate or mortgage professionals may use their special skills to defraud you by promising to save your home. What they really do is skim your home equity or modify your loan for a large fee. You can avoid becoming a victim of these scams by doing the following:
- Ask for referrals.
- Refuse to deal with people you haven't solicited.
- Check for credentials and licenses.
- Stop any transaction when it lacks credibility or feels high pressure.
- Do not sign anything you don't understand.
The FBI reports that they have over 2500 pending cases of mortgage fraud in addition to the 1,089 cases that ended in conviction last year. If you are struggling with your payments, it is likely your lender will try to contact you to discuss the problem. However, you may receive other calls, and these could be predatory.
Regaining your trust in people
If someone has scammed you, whether through one of these examples or a company's misleading claims, chances are you are having difficulty trusting people. However, you may also want someone to help you stand up against those who have taken advantage of you.
You may be relieved to learn that there are attorneys who have dedicated their practices to representing those who are victims of consumer fraud. When a business or institution does not deliver what it promises, you may find satisfaction with the help of a consumer fraud attorney.