Staying informed is key and as a service to our community, Lisa Hart, Arundel Federal's Business Community Development Leader, is available to come out to your churches, homeowners’ associations, clubs, or organizations to present a free Fraud Prevention discussion. She can be reached at or by phone at 410-437-4770.

While not always preventable, the following tips can help you better protect yourself and your information from threats:

1. Spot impostors – Scammers pretend to be someone you trust, like a family member, friend, a charity, or your banker. DO NOT send money or give out personal information to an unexpected request – be it from a text, phone call, or email.

2. Do online searches – Use your favorite search engine and type in the company name, product, phone number, or search a phrase like, “IRS call” with the words, “review,” “scam,” or “complaint” to see if other people have reported them as scams.

3. Don’t believe your caller ID – It’s easy for scammers to fake the incoming number and name, so what you see isn’t always legitimate. If someone calls and asks for personal information or money, HANG UP!

4. Hang up on robocalls – If you hear a recorded sales pitch after answering the phone, just hang up. Most of these calls are illegal and the products are often bogus. Don’t press any number to be taken off the list or to speak with anyone as this could lead to more calls.

5. Be skeptical about free trial offers – Before you agree to a free trial offer, research the company and read the cancellation policy. Some offers require you to pay only for shipping and handling, but they must take it out of your checking account. Once they have your account and routing number, if you don’t cancel your trial offer before the renewal date, they will start to debit your account monthly. Always review your monthly statement for charges you don’t recognize.

6. Don’t pay up front for a promise – You’ve won a prize or the lottery, but first you must pay taxes or fees to claim it. They may ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. Your money will disappear. To get real help with these issues, contact

7. Consider how you pay – Not all methods of payment have the protections most credit cards offer. Wiring money through Western Union and MoneyGram is risky because it is nearly impossible to get your money back. The same is true for re loadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit, and gift cards such as iTunes or Google Play. Honest companies and government offices will not require you to use these payment methods.

8. Don’t deposit a check and wire money back – By law, banks must make funds from a deposited check available within days but identifying a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

9. Talk to someone – before you give out your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert – your bank will be glad to help you!

10. The IRS, Social Security, or Medicare will never call you – you will receive a registered letter in the mail if any of these businesses are trying to contact you. This is a billion-dollar industry! Don’t be fooled. These scam artists want your hard-earned money! Don’t give it to them.

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