While many of us immediately know when we're being scammed, others don't catch on and refuse to listen to warnings that they are in danger.
It can be hard to convince someone they are being duped. Many people are just trusting. Some are old or limited mentally. Others are so desperate for cash they're willing to take a chance.
A Franconia Township, Pennsylvania, woman called me last week because a family member wouldn't believe he was being tricked, despite what she and her husband told him.
She said her nephew received a message on Facebook saying he was one of four people who had won US$500,000 (RM2.02mil) in a lottery that Facebook runs every year. He was told he must pay US$500 (RM2,025), through a wire transfer or cashier's check, for delivery of his prize.
Her nephew seemed convinced it was legit because Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had messaged him and called him to confirm everything. That obviously was an impostor, but he didn't understand that.
"Somebody called and said he was Mark Zuckerberg and it's not a scam, go ahead and contact your FBI and your lawyer and they'll tell you it's not a scam," she said.
To help him understand, I sent her information exposing these types of rip-offs, including warnings from Facebook and the Better Business Bureau and a report about two people in Florida who lost thousands of dollars to the same ploy.
US college students should be watching for another type of scam as they prepare to graduate and start repaying their student loans, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants warned last week.
"Graduation is just weeks away for college students, and soon after they shed their mortar boards, the reality of repaying thousands of dollars of education loans will sink in," the institute said.
"They will hear radio ads and see online promotions touting incredible loan consolidation programmes, but many of these offers are scams."
Offers may guarantee results, for a fee.
While there are ways to consolidate or even defer payments on federal student loans, students don't have to pay for that. They can do it for free through the US Department of Education. Information is at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/ and https://studentloans.gov.
Anyone who charges a fee is not affiliated with the department, no matter what they say or what logo they use on their marketing materials.
"You have to be careful," said Jeff Berdahl, a CPA and personal financial specialist at RLB Accountants in Allentown, Pennsylvania. "Just because you have an official looking federal logo on a website or social media site doesn't mean they're part of a federally run programme."
Earlier this year, the Education Department sent warning letters to the operators of two websites alleging unauthorised use of the department's seal.
"You should view any paid advertising with scepticism," Berdahl said.
He suggests students seek advice from their college financial aid office. If you have student debt from private lenders and want to consolidate that, you must deal directly with the lender. — The Morning Call/Tribune News Service
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