Recently, a consumer reached out to us about her sister. She was sure that her sister was involved in a scam, but she wasn’t having any luck getting her to stop. While it can be hard to talk someone out of a scam they really believe in, the scam this consumer was talking about had some glaring red flags that pointed to the fact that this was absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a scam. Here are three red flags that you’re getting scammed—and this case had all three flags.
1. An Unlikely Person or Company
Sometimes, scammers will try to use the name of a person or company to lend credence to their claims. However, it’s important to look up the individual or company to see if they actually have anything to do with the claimed program. In this case, the scammers alleged that they were offering government grants, and they used the name of Christine LaGarde.
The problem is that Christine LaGarde is the precedence of the European Union Central Bank. She has nothing to do with the distribution of funds in the US or Europe. A quick search on that name reveals that this is most likely a scam.
Scammers may also use the name of a company they think you will trust. If you ever have a question about a business, simply call the business and ask if they are actually part of the program the scammers claim.
2. Spending Money to Get Money
Many scams claim that you can receive funds if you send them money first. In most cases, this is completely false. There is no government grant that requires you to send money before you qualify for the grant. Similarly, most banks, credit cards, and other financial institutions don’t have any kind of program in which you spend money to get money. If the scammers are asking you to send money before you get anything in return, that’s a huge red flag that this isn’t a real program.
3. Gift Cards, Money Orders, and Transfers
Most scammers don’t want payments that can be traced or stopped. So instead of asking for money in the usual ways, they ask for untraceable and irrevocable funds, such as gift cards, money orders, and transfers. No legitimate business will ask to be paid in gift cards, so that is a dead giveaway that something isn’t right. You should also be highly suspect of requests for money orders or transfers. These are common ways scammers try to get money from you that can’t be stopped or traced.
Another way that some scammers are getting untraceable money these days is through the use of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. If someone requests to be paid in Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, be very suspicious.
As always, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one is giving away money for free. And there is no program out there where you can pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to receive huge sums. So be careful out there and always do your research. Never send money to anyone you don’t know and trust personally, or without verifying that an established business or institution is really offering the deal you want to get involved in.