Scammers use a variety of tactics to make their offers seem legitimate. Their initial contact usually occurs by telephone, letters, door-to-door solicitations, flyers, e-mails and phony Web sites. They often try to convince consumers to send them money or give personal information, such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers. Look out for the common signs of a scam listed below.

Signs of a Scam

  • You’ve won a contest you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re pressured to “act now!”
  • You have to pay a fee to receive your “prize.”
  • Your personal information is requested.
  • A large down-payment is requested.
  • The company refuses to provide written information.
  • The company has no physical address, only a P.O. Box.
  • They insist you pay in cash.

Protect Yourself:

Stay informed about the latest and most common consumer scams or the FBI’s list of Common Fraud Schemes.

The following are the most important quick tips to remember to stay safe and protect your pocketbook:

Research Businesses and Charities:

  • Before doing business with a company, check its reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask family and friends for recommendations of businesses and charities. Never do business with a company that refuses to give you information in writing or one that refuses to give you a phone number, a physical address or references.
  • Check with the Ohio Secretary of State to make sure a company is registered as a business in Ohio.

Read the Fine Print:

  • Read all the terms and conditions of any agreement before you sign.
  • Look for exclusions.
  • Always get warranties in writing.
  • Review contracts with a trusted attorney, friend or family member.
  • Monitor your financial accounts.
  • If a fraudulent charge appears on your bank statement, immediately notify your bank.

Remember Your Rights:

  • Ohio consumer law protects you from unfair, deceptive and unconscionable practices in consumer transactions. For example, advertisements must list a sale’s exclusions and limitations, and a store must post its return policy, if it has one. In Ohio, it is illegal to charge a fee for a prize. If you’ve actually won something, you won’t need to send any money to get it.
  • Reconsider the purchase: Take your time before you make a decision.
  • Never give personal information to someone you don’t know or trust, even in a contest.
  • Ask companies how they will use your personal information and ask them not to sell your information.
  • Don’t give in to high pressure sales tactics. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Never sign anything you do not understand.
  • Ask questions and demand answers

Report Fraud:

If you suspect fraud or if you cannot resolve the problem on your own, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. To report a scam, you can file online on the Ohio Attorney General’s Report a Scam page.

Learn more on the Ohio Attorney General’s website and the FBI’s Fraud and Scam website.