Don’t Get Ripped Off: Gimmicks & Red Flags You Need To Know


Criminals are becoming increasingly tech-savvy in the name of trying to get their hands on your money or personal information. Spam emails, phone calls, and text messages are now a daily reality for a lot of us, and the senders are using all sorts of lies and misinformation to get what they want.

I’ve written about a number of popular scams and how to avoid getting ripped off in a segment called “Stay Safe Out There”. I thought it was high time I gave that information a home here on my blog too, so that’s what I’ll be doing today!

In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 of the most common types of scams currently popular with criminals. After that, I’ll point out several red flags to look for in texts, calls, and emails that can help you identify them as scams and avoid getting taken advantage of.

So let’s dive in, shall we?


1. Phishing

Phishing is a general term for any email or text sent by someone pretending to be affiliated with a source you trust, like your bank or even a close friend. Many phishing messages contain a link the sender wants you to click on, because it will likely make your personal information or computer vulnerable in a way they can exploit.


2. Diet Scams

Diet scams generate more fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission than any other health-related scam. Diet scams often center around products that either don’t work as advertised, or that can have dangerous side effects.

Any diet or weight loss product that claims to be “revolutionary,” “miraculous,” or a “scientific breakthrough” is likely a scam. Generally speaking, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


3. Credit Repair Scams

Credit repair scams prey on people who are struggling with poor credit scores or credit card debt. A scammer who offers to help repair your credit may either charge you for services you could perform yourself for free, or they could charge you for services that are actually illegal, like giving you a “new” (phony) Social Security number or filing false claims of identity theft.


4. Online Shopping Scams

If you’ve ever bought a product online and received something that was clearly counterfeit, didn’t fit the product description, or never received anything at at all, you’ve probably been the victim of an online shopping scam. You can report scams like these to the Better Business Bureau via their Scam Tracker website.


5. Bereavement Scams

Scammers are remarkably good at collecting the personal information of recently deceased people and using it to open accounts or make purchases under their name. For this reason, it’s important to report the death of a parent, child, or spouse to the following organizations without delay:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • The deceased’s bank and other financial institutions
  • One of the major credit bureaus (death notices registered with any bureau are automatically shared with the others)

Now that we’ve covered some popular scams and how they work, we can move onto how to identify them. These 7 “red flags” are characteristics that commonly show up in scams—if you notice any of them, it should at least raise your suspicions (if not send you running in the opposite direction!)


7 Scam Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

1. Errors

If the text in an email or text message is riddled with typos and grammatical errors, that should put you on your guard. It’s not a guarantee that the message is from a scammer, but if it’s one of a few red flags, that’s a good sign someone’s trying to rip you off.

In addition to text, other errors can be signs of a scam too, like logos that aren’t quite right, strange sender addresses, and so on.

2. Gift Cards

Scammers prefer to get paid through money transfer services and gift cards, because both are difficult to trace and make it almost impossible for you to get your money back. If someone wants you to pay them with a gift card, it’s almost assuredly a scam.

3. Requests For Private Information

Banks, government agencies, and any other legitimate company or organization will never ask for your personal, private, or financial information in a text or email. If someone asks for private information from you and claims to be with a company or organization, call the entity’s customer service line to confirm before you give out any information.

4. Unbelievable Claims

If someone’s telling you their diet shake can help you lose 20 pounds in a month, or that they can improve your credit score from 425 to 750, it’s safe to assume that’s a bunch of baloney. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

5. Urgency

Scammers use fear and urgency to manipulate victims into acting before they’ve had the chance to think things through. They’ll tell you anything to get you to give up your info or money—they’ll say you’ll be arrested if you don’t do what they want, or that a loved one is in trouble and needs your help immediately.

Don’t act rashly just because someone else wants you too. Instead, slow down, talk things over with someone you trust, and make a decision with a cool head.

Scam texts and emails often try to lead recipients to unsafe websites where scammers can harvest their passwords, credit card numbers, etc. The safest option is to avoid clicking even mildly suspicious links.

7. Scant Information

If an online retailer or organization doesn’t provide information about their privacy policy, terms and conditions, and other basic policies, that’s rarely a good sign. If there isn’t enough basic information about the company or organization to convince you it’s real, don’t engage with them further.


The Takeaway

Even if we know all the red flags to look for and are familiar with common scams, I’m sure most of us has fallen victim to a scam at one point or another. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s never the victim’s fault. Blaming fraud victims is unfair, and it perpetuates shame that prevents other victims from coming forward and reporting fraud to the authorities.

If your phone is constantly buzzing with spam texts and calls, be proactive and block the senders. Learn how to filter messages on an iPhone here, and how to block a number on an Android here.

Have you ever received a suspicious email or text message?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • I was recently targeted by a scammer who somehow accessed two of my credit cards from Synchrony Bank and had new cards sent to an address in Florida. I discovered this when two credit reporting services sent me emails asking if I had recently changed my address, and also when I tried using one of the cards online to make a purchase and it was declined. I immediately contacted Synchrony, who then immediately cancelled the new cards and my current cards and reissued new ones to me at my correct address. Whoever the scammer was, he never got to use those cards anyway, and according to the bank, would not have been able to use them as they have safeguards already in place to stop this type of fraud.The odd part of this is the fact that one of the cards they tried to access was a card I had never ever even used, not 1 time, which told me (althought the bank wouldn’t admit it) that the breach was on their end, not mine. Bottom line is that if you are suddenly unable to use any of your cards, you need to go to your account and check the info on there, and then immediately contact your card provider to resolve the problem. Do not wait to do this.

  • I can’t even browse Walmart’s online site without hackers sending me emails- it’s a long story.
    We’ve also had relatives get calls from someone posing as an old friend saying they need them to buy a certain number of gift cards. Thank goodness they were smart enough to be tipped off. My Uncle just told them let me call —- and of course the person they were claiming to be had no clue what the scammer was trying to do.

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