Each day people, just like you and me, lose hundreds (or many thousands) of dollars to scammers based on schemes that we can easily protect ourselves from. All it takes is a bit of common sense and self-confidence.

Tricks include phone calls, letters, and e-mails and occasionally someone coming to your door.

You may hear:

· “This is the IRS. You owe $5, 435.79 in taxes and penalties. We will take your bank accounts or home unless you pay us right now. Which bank or credit card do you want to pay from?”

· “Your grandchild has been arrested in (pick your country). He/She will be thrown in jail unless you can pay us $3,000 today.”

· “Your niece/nephew has had an accident and is in police custody for drugs and alcohol. It will take $7,500 to post bail. He/She doesn’t dare let his/her parents know. You need to send cash right now! We can take the payment by credit card. DO NOT let anyone know!”

· “Your bank account (or credit card) has been compromised. We need to verify the purchases you have actually made this month. Please verify your credit card number & credit limit. We also need to check your other cards and bank accounts.”

There are hundreds of these scams. Protect yourself. Never give your bank account, credit card, social security, retirement or personal information to anyone who contacts you. The only exception is when you have made the contact yourself and know it is legitimate.

Even if a bank or credit card agency calls you about a transaction, do not give them any account numbers or your address. Hang up, look up the agency phone, and call them yourself. Most phone numbers to check questions are right on the bank or credit card. The IRS or State doesn’t call you out of the blue. Never believe anyone who claims you need to pay a debt or tax you didn’t know you owed.

The best way to handle these scams is to hang up the phone, close your door, delete the e-mail, or walk away immediately. It’s fine to be rude. Don’t keep talking! Check out the situation yourself later.

Remember, even official government credentials can be forged!