Many people assume that they can spot a scam instantly, but millions of people fall victim to scams every year. Those scams may include sending money to a person who doesn’t actually exist or paying for a product that is not real. Since not all of us have the time to enroll in an online masters degree in criminal justice and learn the art of handling phony people, here are three easy ways in which you can protect yourself and avoid falling victim to scams.

Do Your Research

When you hear about a job offer or find a product for sale at an unbelievably low price online, do your research before sending a single dime. Use Google to search for the individual’s name or company’s name, read reviews posted by other customers and find out if it is a scam. Some publishing companies are frauds that guarantee they will help publish the work of others but then take their money and run. You may also come across fraud companies that ask you to deposit a check, send back a portion of that check and keep the balance. By the time the check bounces, the company is long gone.

Beware of Phony Debts

Scam artists commonly target the elderly with something called the uncollected debt scam. They scour the obituaries and call the widows and widowers of those listed in the paper. After claiming that the deceased left behind an unpaid debt, they encourage victims to pay off those debts through a money transfer. Anyone can fall victim to one of these scams, especially when dealing with grief. If you receive a phone call about an alleged debt owed by a family member and decide to pay off that debt, always pay with a debit or credit card that you can trace. Credit card companies will let you do a charge back to get the cash back too.

Trust Your Gut

Trusting your gut and your instincts is the best way to avoid frauds. If you find a car for sale with a price half of what others ask, it’s probably a scam. The same is true of some of the more popular vacation scams. These scams show images of gorgeous vacation homes and ask travelers to send money to reserve the property. The rental may not exist or may look significantly different in person. If an offer seems just too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Frauds can happen both online and in person, which is why smart shoppers always do their research and take certain steps to protect themselves. Once you’ve fallen for a scam, it is sometimes nearly impossible for professionals to get your money back. It’s always better to be cautious from the beginning when dealing with online markets.

About Meghan Belnap:

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure.