5 surprising signs you’re about to be scammed


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We’re all too smart to fall for a scam…until we aren’t. From the moment we’re kids, we’re warned about people who mean us harm. But the phrase, “don’t take candy from strangers,” doesn’t just apply to children. Con artists are constantly honing their craft, so even adults need to be wary about scams or fraud.


Thieves have a seemingly endless amount of ways to try to part you or your family members from your hard-earned cash. Through identity theftinsurance fraud and mortgage scams, dishonest people may try to steal your money or assets. You could be romanced out of your money, or your parents could become victims of elder financial fraud. Ever since the pandemic began, coronavirus scams have also been a way for scammers to make money.


Because there are so many ways that swindlers can take advantage, it’s important to be able to identify the major red flags. Your guard should go up if you’re in any of the following situations.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

Be wary of strangers calling and requesting your financial information. You might think, “I wouldn’t fall for that,” but scammers are surprisingly successful when their request is accompanied by a logical reason. Take the fake front desk phone call scam, for instance.


Scammers sometimes call hotel rooms directly and pretend to be the front desk clerk. They proceed to tell you that there is a computer problem on their end, and that they need you to verify your credit card information on file.


While that may seem reasonable, it could be a scam. If this ever happens to you, we advise that you hang up the phone and call the front desk or speak with a hotel representative in person. That way, you can verify if there really is an issue with your credit card prior to providing your information.

The “Good Guys” Trying to Protect You From the Bad Guys May Be the Bad Guys

NJ.com, a digital news content provider focusing on New Jersey, recently released an interesting article about a young woman who lost $1,000 in a Zelle scam.


The scammer impersonated a representative with the woman’s bank. He warned her about a fraudulent charge that was going to be processed on her account and came off as though he was trying to protect her from having her money stolen.

According to the article, the scammer provided the woman with detailed instructions, requesting that she enter a specific code into her PNC Zelle app, along with her first and last name and the word “reversal” on the Zelle memo.


Post hoc, this may sound ridiculous. Who would honestly fall for that? But keep in mind, you’re currently reading an article about scams. When you’re living your busy life, and you receive an urgent-sounding call from an alleged representative of your bank, you’ll be caught off guard and more vulnerable.


The red flag in this situation is that you’re being asked to do something that a large financial institution with the latest technology should be able to stop or reverse on its own. If you feel like you’re having to do all the hard work of stopping a digital criminal from robbing your online bank account, instead of the bank doing it, that’s the moment you should hang up the phone. Then you can call your bank yourself and see what’s up.


Part of the danger of a scam like this — one in which you’re tricked by a crook into willingly sending the thief money — is that it’s really not the bank’s fault. Legally, the bank doesn’t have to replace the money that was stolen. In this particular case, the bank, fearing bad publicity, refunded the woman $1,000. However, you may not be so fortunate.

Beware a Tale of Woe Designed to Tap Into Your Own Greed

Since we live so much of our lives online, we’re warned constantly about the dangers of clicking on the wrong link. Because of this, it’s easy to forget that you can be scammed face to face with a real life person.


Police in the state of Hawaii have warned the public about a scam where a stranger approaches somebody in a public area and shares a tale of woe. Their credit card no longer works and to fund their flight home, they’re selling their antique jewelry. Would you be interested in that deal? The answer is simply no. In July, a 62-year-old paid a 33-year-old an undisclosed amount of money for jewelry that was supposed to be 18-carat gold. After having it appraised, the man learned that it was all fake.

You’re Striking Up a Friendship with Someone Who Texted You Accidentally

In the course of daily activities, we text the wrong person, or somebody accidentally texts us, and you exchange friendly banter about the mix up, usually ending there. In rare cases, though, these accidental texts lead to friendships.


Odds are, if you’ve developed a rapport with an accidental texter, you’re being ripped off. The Federal Communications Commission recently put out a warning to the public that scams from people texting people “accidentally” are on the rise. As the FCC’s warning states, scammers aren’t always after your money. Some of them “may simply be trying to collect personal information or confirm that a number is active for use in future scams.”


So if you’ve found an anonymous texter charming and fun to text, you may want to proceed cautiously. As the FCC states, “Scam text message senders want you to engage with them,” meaning, they’re more likely to be agreeable and pleasant conversationalists.

We’ve Never Met In Person, but Can You Send Some Cash?

Even if you’ve been dating somebody for a while, going to the movies or out to dinner, you may be hesitant if they ask you for a loan, but there’s a high likelihood that it isn’t a con. But if your relationship has existed entirely over technology, either by phone or computer, you’re likely being scammed.


Unfortunately, numerous people suffer from cases of broken hearts and bank accounts each year. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission released a report that found that romance scams are the number one way that people are defrauded out of their money. In the past five years, Americans have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams.


An Alabama woman recently made headlines for being scammed by three different men who convinced her to send them $430,000 over eight years. That may sound unbelievable, but if you care about a person, it’s easy to see how you might give them money if you feel it will help them.


While it may be difficult to say no, you should not send money to any of your relationships that are entirely online. If that person really cares for you, they will completely understand and will find another way to solve their financial problem. And if they aren’t trying to scam you, but nonetheless give you a hard time for not sending them money, they aren’t worth your time.

People Approaching You About Money and Finances Is the Red Flag

Relationships are one of the most rewarding parts of life, so you shouldn’t fear intimacy or closeness. Rather, it’s important to be aware of red flags in relationships, like requesting money, refusing to meet in person or asking for your personal identification information.



This article originally appeared on Moneygeek.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


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How to tell if you’re living beyond your means


Living beyond your means is an easy trap to fall into. And if you’re not keeping close track of everything that’s coming in and going out of your financial account, you may not even realize you’re doing it. But if you often run out of money before the month is over and you don’t know exactly where all the money is going, it could be a sign that you’re living above your means.


Over time, living a lifestyle beyond what you can actually afford can lead to mounting debt and also keep you from reaching your financial goals.


Related: Budgeting for basic living expenses



NazariyKarkhut / istockphoto


Simply put, ”living above your means” means that you are spending more money than you are earning. People are able to do this by relying on credit cards, loans, and pior savings to cover their expenses. However, the process is not sustainable, and eventually overspending is likely to catch up to you.


Living beyond your means can also mean that you’re spending everything you bring in, and, as a result, don’t have anything left over for saving or investing, such as building an emergency fund, saving for a short-term goal like buying a car or a home, or putting money away for retirement.


Here are 10 red flags that you’re living a lifestyle you simply can’t afford — and tips for how to get back on track.




If most or all of your paycheck is spent immediately on bills and you don’t have anything left over at the end of the month to put into savings, you are likely living over your means and may need to make some adjustments. If your current lifestyle has become a habit, you may feel there is no place to cut back. However, if you get out your monthly statements for the past three months and take a close look at where all your money is going each month, you will likely find places where you can cut back on spending.


This might be ditching cable, cooking (instead of ordering take-out) a few more times per week or quitting the gym and working out at home.




If you’ve been putting a lot of your expenses on your credit card and/or don’t always pay your bills on time, you may see your credit score take a hit. This number is important because it can be accessed by anyone considering giving you new credit and may be used to determine the interest rate you’ll pay on a home or car loan, and also new credit cards.


If you aren’t sure what your credit score is, you can get a free copy of your reports from all three credit bureaus. Looking it over can help you understand why your credit score has dropped, and help you take the necessary steps to repair it.


For example, you might set up automatic payments for the minimum amount due on credit card bills and loans so you never miss a payment. You may also want to pay down your balances on your credit cards and lines of credit. This can lower your “credit utilization rate” (how much of your credit limit you are using), which is factored into your score.




If money is feeling a little tight, you may feel that now is not the time to worry about retirement. But you likely won’t be able to work forever, so it can be wise to make saving for retirement a priority and to get started early.


Thanks to compounding interest (which is when the interest you earn also starts earning interest), the earlier you start investing in a retirement fund, the easier it will be to save enough money to retire well. You don’t have to contribute a lot; even just putting aside a small amount of each paycheck into a 401(k) or IRA each month can help you build wealth over time.




Keeping your rent or mortgage below 30 percent of your monthly pre-tax income is sometimes recommended because it can leave you with enough income left over to save, invest, and build wealth in general.


Staying below 30 percent can be difficult, however, if you live in a region of the country where the cost of housing is high. Nevertheless, spending a lot more than a third of your income on housing can leave you “house poor” and put your other financial obligations at risk.


If you find that your housing costs are taking too large a chunk of your monthly paycheck, you might consider downsizing, taking on a roommate or finding a way to increase your income with a side hustle.




Another sign you may be living beyond your means is that your savings have stagnated. Making regular deposits into your savings account in addition to your 401(k) or IRA allows you to work towards your short- and medium-term financial goals, such as putting a downpayment on a home or a car or going on vacation.


Suwanmanee99 / istockphoto


An overdraft fee, or “non-sufficient funds fee,” is charged when there’s not enough money in your account to cover a check or debit card payment. Mistakes happen, and a one-off overdraft isn’t necessarily an indicator of overspending. But repeat offenses can be a sign that you are living too close to the edge and don’t have a clear picture of how much money is going into your account and how much is going out.


You may want to start tracking your spending and keeping a closer eye on your spending account to make sure you always have enough to cover your electronic payments.




Many people think making and following a budget will be too complicated. But having a budget can actually simplify your spending decisions by letting you know exactly what you can and can’t afford.


Having a budget also helps to ensure you have enough money to cover essentials, fun, and also sock some away in savings. If you’ve never set financial parameters for yourself, you may want to consider taking an honest inventory of how much you are bringing in each month and how much is going out each month.


Once you get a sense of your own patterns and habits, you can work toward building a realistic budget that allows you to spend and save more wisely.




Leasing a vehicle you would not be able to purchase outright or finance can be a major financial red flag. Leasing lets you rent a high-end lifestyle, but many people end up with leases they really can’t afford.


You might be covering your monthly payments, but if you can’t do that while meeting your other expenses and also putting money into savings, then your car is likely too expensive.


You may want to consider downgrading your vehicle or saving up enough money to buy a car — either outright or by making a solid downpayment so your monthly payments are low.




It’s fine to use your credit card to pay for everyday expenses and the occasional big purchase. But if you can’t pay off most of the balance each month, you’re likely living beyond your means.


Rather than give over part of your paycheck just to interest each month, you may want to cut back on nonessential spending and divert that money toward paying off your balances.


Rawpixel / istockphoto


Not having a stash of cash you can turn to in a pinch can be a sign that you’re overspending. You may be gambling on the fact that nothing will go wrong. But life is unpredictable, and getting hit with an unexpected expense you can’t pay for can lead to a financial crisis.


Instead, you may want to build an emergency fund that can cover three to six months worth of living expenses. That way, you’ll be covered should something happen, such as an illness or injury, job loss, housing issue or any other expensive personal matter should come up.




Unfortunately, living beyond your means is all too easy to do. And while a few weeks or months of spending more than you earn may not be a major problem, overspending on a regular basis will likely catch up to you in the form of high debt and neglected savings.


Creating (and sticking to) a spending budget can help ensure that you can afford your bills and basic expenses, and still have money left over to save for the things you want in the future.


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This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


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