Money makes the world go round. Unfortunately, it also attracts scammers. In today’s digital age, money scams have become increasingly sophisticated, making it important to know of the risks and take preventive measures. In a previous post, we explored how achieving financial freedom relies on using and managing money wisely. And money management includes avoiding money scams. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know a good opportunity from a money scam. In this post, we’ll explore common money scams and ways to avoid them to help you achieve your financial goals.
Understanding Money Scams
Before we dive into the specific scams you may face, let’s review some common behaviors scammers use to steal your money.
Scammers Don’t Discriminate
Money scammers don’t discriminate. They target people from all walks of life, including nurses. Nurses, known for their compassionate and caring nature, may be susceptible to investment scams. Their busy schedules and limited time for financial education can leave them vulnerable to schemes that promise quick and effortless wealth.
The “Too Good to Be True” Trap
Just like a fad diet, scammers promise quick results. Scammer often use high pressure sales tactics, exaggerated claims, and fake success stories to lure you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Money scammers are great marketers. They craft their advertising to show how their solutions can help you solve your money problems fast. Scammers use terms like get rich quick, amazing investment opportunity, no risk, and guaranteed big returns in their messages. They also use online advertising and bots to trick you into believing they are legitimate and reputable.
Common Money Scams
Now that we’ve covered scammer behaviors, let explore common money scams to avoid.
Online Shopping Scams
Bogus online stores lure victims with too good to be true deals. They may be selling knock offs or may not exist at all. Poor customer service reviews or really low prices on brand name items are red flags for online shopping scams.
Advance Fee Scams
Scammers may pretend to be law enforcement officers, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents, or other professionals to intimidate you into paying fines or fees. The grandparent scam is a common one to avoid. With this scam, the scammer pretends to be a relative in need of bail money to get released from jail. And with AI technology, they may even sound like your relative!
Facebook Money Scams
Facebook is a scam magnet! Here are common Facebook money scams to avoid:
- Romance Scam
- Inheritance Scams
- Donation Scams
- Loan Scams
- Lottery Scams
- Marketplace Scams
Common Investment Scams
High Guaranteed Returns
Be cautious of investments promising unusually high or guaranteed returns. All investments carry risk. And no investment in guaranteed.
Pressure to Invest Quickly or Give Limited Information
Scammers often pressure you to make quick decisions. Legitimate investments allow you time to consider your choices. Scammers also are vague and give little to no information. Be wary of investments that lack details. Consider vague contracts a red flag.
Unregulated or Suspicious Investments
Legitimate investments are regulated by reputable authorities. Be cautious of investments that are not regulated. Investment brokers who sell securities like stocks, bonds, or mutual funds must be registered. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulates investment brokers.
Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes
These illegal money scams are often considered the same, but they are not. A Ponzi scheme involves recruiting new investors to pay returns to existing investors. They promise high returns but use funds from new investors to pay returns to earlier investors. This creates a cycle of dependency. Eventually, the scheme collapses, and many people lose their money. The infamous case of Bernie Madoff is an example of a Ponzi scheme.
Pyramid schemes involve recruiting new participants into a hierarchical structure. The promise of money is made for recruitment, not for selling investments. Money flows up the pyramid, benefiting those at the top while those at the bottom lose out.
Fake Online Trading Platforms
Fraudulent online trading platforms claim to offer opportunities for lucrative trading. But once they gain your trust and you invest, they steal your money and disappear.
Pump and Dump Scams
In pump and dump scams, fraudsters artificially inflate the price of a stock, then sell it at a profit. This leaves other investors with worthless shares.
Cryptocurrency and Digital Asset Scams
Scammers may use the popularity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or other digital assets to lure unsuspecting investors. They might promise quick and large returns or ask for your personal information to set up a digital wallet.
Unethical advisors pose a serious threat to your financial wellbeing for many reasons. They often charge excessive fees, often undisclosed. Unethical advisors may push products or services that pay high commissions. They may pressure you to make quick decisions. And they may misrepresent their qualifications. These red flags can lead to poor investment decisions and loss of money.
Tips to Avoid Money Scams
Knowledge is your best defense against money scams. Stay informed about common scams and stay updated on the latest fraud tactics. Avoid investments you don’t understand. Ask questions to understand the risks and benefits. A reputable Financial Advisor will help you find investments aligned with your goals.
Verify before you trust the other party. Research investment opportunities and Financial Advisors before investing. Organizations like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) provide valuable resources and alerts regarding illegal and unethical practices. You can check the background of a broker on the FINRA website.
Know Your Financial Goals and Risk Tolerance
Your investment strategy should be aligned to your financial goals and risk tolerance. Avoid following the latest investment fads or making impulsive decisions based on short-term market swings.
Secure Your Financial Accounts
Protect your accounts by using strong, unique passwords and enabling two factor authentication. Regularly monitor your credit and financial statements for suspicious activity. And report any irregularities immediately to your bank or credit card company.
Protect Your Personal and Financial Information
Nurses are very familiar with protecting patient information. And the same principle applies to you. It goes without saying to never share your Social Security number, bank account details, or other sensitive information with anyone you do not trust. Be cautious when providing information online and use secure websites for financial transactions. You’ll know the website is secure if you see the lock in the URL box or the letters “https” before the website address.
Money scams are real. And with technology, it is difficult to know a good opportunity from a bad one. By staying informed, working with a reputable Financial Advisor, avoiding investment scams, and protecting your information, you can avoid common money scams. Nurses know prevention is the best strategy. By identifying these common scams and following these tips to prevent them, you can help protect your money and stay on track with your financial plan.
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Georgene Collins, RICP®, RN, PhD, MBA is a registered nurse turned Financial Advisor at Airey Financial Group. Georgene helps other nurses take control of their finances and prepare for retirement. Georgene began her career with Airey Financial Group in 2017 after retiring from 30 years in healthcare.
Georgene holds the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) designation from The American College of Financial Services. She holds health and life insurance licenses and a long-term care certificate in Indiana and Illinois. Georgene is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative and has earned the FINRA Series 63 and 65 registrations.