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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2018 > Learn the Ten Signs of a Scam

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Learn the Ten Signs of a Scam


Scammers use a variety of tactics to make their offers seem legitimate. Their initial contact may be by telephone, mail, door-to-door, flyers, emails, or phony websites. Be aware of ten signs that these initial contacts may be part of a bigger a scam.

  • Being asked to wire money or send a prepaid money card or gift card to a stranger or friend in need.
    Scammers often use these payment methods because they are difficult to trace and tough for consumers to ever get their money back. Scammers may even ask you to simply read the numbers off the back of a gift card so that they can drain the money.  Once the money is gone, it may be gone for good. 

  • Pressure to “act now!” Scammers don’t want you to do your research or discuss the situation with a trusted friend or relative, so they devise tactics to rush you toward giving out your personal information and/or money immediately.

  • Requests for your personal information. Be skeptical when asked for personal information. In general, if you are asked for more personal information than you feel is appropriate, ask them why they need it and how they will protect your information from being shared or stolen. Especially be on the lookout if you receive a cold call supposedly from a government agency such as the IRS.

  • Winning a contest you’ve never heard of or entered. You cannot win a contest you did not enter. You cannot win a lottery unless you purchase a ticket.  Never pay fees to win contests that you did not enter.

  • Suspicious Caller ID is displayed.  Using “spoofing” technology, scam artists can display any phone number they want on your Caller ID display. Those are likely from scammers who try to get you to answer their phone call by appearing to be from a local phone number. That’s called “neighbor spoofing.”  They may also spoof the caller ID to appear to be from a legitimate agency or business.

  • Sending money in advance to secure a loan. Scammers may try to convince you that you’ve been approved for a loan, but they need a payment in advance.  If this happens, there’s a good chance they will simply take your money and run. Never pay advanced fees to a stranger claiming they can guarantee your loan will be approved.       

  • Requests for a large down payment. Home improvement con artists are notorious for demanding large down payments because they want as much of your money up-front before doing an incomplete or shoddy job.

  • Being selected for a mystery shopping job, especially if you never applied. While a few mystery shopping jobs are legitimate, many opportunities are cleverly devised scams using, again, wire transfers or prepaid gift card transactions. They may also involve fake checks where you’re asked to send money back to the scammer before the check clears.

  • A company that refuses to provide written information. Be wary of any business that has nothing in writing to describe their company along with its products and services. Also, never consider any promised benefit as a guarantee unless it is in a contract signed by you and the business.

  • A company has no physical address, only a P.O. box. Some scammers use P.O. boxes as the only address they give out to consumers. In reality, the box may simply be a collection point for the money they are stealing.

Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at  or 800-282-0515.