How to protect yourself from scams

This blog post is going to be a lot different than the normal mindless jargon I post on here. Working in consumer banking, I unfortunately see a lot of scams. I see a lot of innocent people who are taken by these things and often times they suffer the consequences instead of the person who is behind the whole thing. Two days ago I personally received a scam in my mailbox.

In this entry I will share my experience with you and I will also give you tips on protecting yourself (and your money) from potential loss.

**First, let me just say that before I thought to write this blog entry, I had already turned everything to my fraud department**

The first thing that struck me as odd before I even opened the envelope, was that the postage and the postal stamp was from Spain. Specifically Madrid Spain
1. Unless you have friends or do business out of the country, receiving mail post marked outside of the states is extremely suspicious.

When I opened the envelope, there was a letter along side a check with the Target Corporation (and their famous bullseye). Now, I know that If Target were to send me anything, their logo would be PLASTERED on the envelope. Much like the inserts they send out occasionally. Also looking at the logos on both the check and the letter, the zip code was missing a number on the letter.
2. Always check for consistency. Large companies like Target would have their logo everywhere and they would not have an error like missing digits on zip codes.

Reading the letter, it said that this was for a secret shopper program which I had never signed up for. Then it went into a full discription of the check that was included. The check was for $1997.80
3. Never expect to get free money. If something is legit, you have to earn it. You will NEVER get that kind of money ($1,997.80) without having to earn it.


There was a web address on the letter, along with an ID and a 'password' to validate the check before depositing. When I visited the website, there was no Target logo. The website was very amateur and just didnt seem right. There was nothing else on the page but a spot to enter the id and password. No disclosures, no greeting, nada....nothing.
4. Again, anything from a large company would have their logo plastered everywhere. There would be some sort of greeting, there would be SOMETHING else on that page. If it were reputable, there would be a link to their main comapny website. Any websote woth no link or any other pages is a definite red flag

In conclusion, just remember these important things:
  • Common sense says that addresses, states, and countries will match. Legitimate items will be consistant.
  • Free money doesnt exist. Even if the scam doesnt ask you for money right away, it will once they know you took their bait.
  • Legitimate companies will have links, contact info, or additional information on the web page they give you.
If you are still unsure about an item (especially when a check is involved), visit your bank. Bankers unfortunately see things like this all the time. Having someone you trust take a second look for you will not only give you peace of mind, you will save yourself from being taken out of your hard earned money. They can also arm you with the information you need to recognize frauds and scams from the get go.

I hope that this blog post will help someone. Its December first, and the holiday season is in full swing. Just like 'tis the season to be jolly, 'tis also the season for crooks and theives to prey on the innocent. Protect yourselves!!!!