How many times have you read in the paper or seen on television about somebody falling victim to a con artist? Did you wonder how those people could be so gullible and think to yourself that it could never happen to you? Chances are, the victims probably thought the same thing at one time or another. Most people think they're too smart to fall for a scam. However, con artists successfully scam people from all walks of life, including some of the most intelligent and successful. Many people think of scam victims being lonely widows or elderly persons. While these groups of people often are targets of con artists, plenty of doctors, lawyers, investment counselors, and even police officers have fallen victim to scams. The successful con artist is very smart, aggressive and extremely persuasive and may convince you that they are the best friend you have in the world. But they can rob you using persuasion and your trust as a weapon rather than a gun. 

Scams come in many different varieties. They may approach victims in the form of telephone calls, through the mail, in newspapers or magazines, or by coming to their door. And now, with so many homes having computers and internet access and email, a whole new world of potential scams has been opened up to the con artists.

Use your head and remember...if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • When solicited for donations to charities, listen carefully to the name of the charity. Fraudulent charities often use names that are very similar to reputable, well-known charities. They may call themselves the American Cancer Association, confusing you into thinking you are donating to the very well-known American Cancer Society.
  • Some scams may involve phone calls where the caller identifies themselves as calling on behalf of the local law enforcement agency asking for donations to help keep kids off drugs or to assist with the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. Never be afraid to call your local law enforcement agency to check before donating to such causes. Con artists know that many people, upon hearing that it is being done on behalf of local law enforcement, will donate without ever questioning the authenticity of the call. Many times, the local police don't have any idea this is going on until someone reports it to them. The money donated many times goes only to line the pockets of the person running the scam.
  • Never give out your credit card, phone card, Social Security or bank account number to someone who calls you. It is illegal for telemarketers to ask for this information to verify a prize or gift. Also, don't fall for scams where someone calls claiming to be from your bank or credit card company conducting an audit or verifying your account and needing you to give them your account number. 
  • Beware of 900 numbers. People who call these numbers looking to obtain instant credit or other services often end up with nothing more than a large phone bill.
  • Beware of "get rich quick" schemes or "once in a lifetime opportunity" investments pitched to you by strangers. Investigate before making any investments.
  • Look closely at offers that come in the mail. Con artists often use forms that look like official documents from your vehicle manufacturer or from the government warning you to call a phone number immediately. These notices most often turn out to be an attempt to sell you something you don't need. If you receive items in the mail that you did not order throw them out, return them, or keep them. You are under no obligation to pay for anything you did not order.
  • Be wary of persons who approach your home offering to repair your roof, driveway, or other areas at your home that they claim to have noticed while driving through the neighborhood. They may offer to do the at a reduced rate because it is a "slow" time or they have left over materials. Some may require a deposit or ask you to pay for materials "up front" and then leave without ever performing the work. Or, they may use shoddy materials and untrained workers or just do part of the work. Legitimate home repair businesses can supply you with a list of references. Check them out if you are unfamiliar with their work. And never pay in advance for home repairs.
  • Be suspicious of ads claiming promising quick cash working at home. After paying for supplies and an instruction book on how to get started, many people find their is no market for the product and no refund on the money.
  • Use common sense when dealing with auto repairs, especially when traveling. Get a written estimate of repairs needed and their costs and, if needed, get a second opinion. Never tell a repair shop to "fix everything" effectively giving them a blank check.
  • Don't let your own greed cause you to become a victim of a "Pigeon Drop." This is a classic con where 2 or more strangers tell you they have found a large sum of money or other valuables. They claim not to know each other and they may some "flash" money to convince you. They say they will split the money with you but everyone involved must put up some "good faith" money. You turn your cash, and you never see your money or the strangers again. Hard to believe people actually fall for it but they do time and time again. That's why it's called a "classic" con.

 If you become a victim of a con game or know of a con being committed don't be embarrassed report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency.

For more information about fraud, visit the National Fraud Information Center's website .