Con Artists | How To Spot and Avoid The Scam
Con Artists | How To Spot and Avoid The Scam

Con Artists | How To Spot and Avoid The Scam

Keep yourself and your family safe from the hands of con artists by understanding who they are. Know all about the kinds of schemes they will try to pull on you, so you are not fooled. You don’t want to give any of your hard-earned cash to someone who is merely deceiving you.

Con artists are skilled at deception and may try a variety of schemes on you to take your money or identity. Most are very talented at spotting when a scam is going the right way, so they know exactly what to do next. If you’ve fallen prey to a con artist, you know that they can read people very well. They knew the exact right thing to say and do to win you over, right?

Today, we’ll look at who con artists are and how you can avoid falling victim to them. Have you ever wondered how you could spot a con artist in advance? Let’s look at the secrets you need to know to protect yourself and your money.

Who Are Con Artists?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains that con artists’ definition is individuals who trick others into giving them money. For example, a couple might lose their life savings to a con artist because he told them he was an investment broker who could help them make money.

Con artists thrive on deception in everything that they do. Many times, they will use a con to trick someone into doing something they normally would never do. If you have fallen prey to a scheme in the past, don’t beat yourself up. These people are skilled in their area of expertise – deception and trickery.

Most con artists are skilled at reading people. They know when they are on the right track with an individual and can alter their strategy to win them over.

Are You A Victim?

Victims aren’t specific groups of people, and they certainly aren’t those who are naive. Con artists are talented and know exactly what to say and do to win people over. Even the smartest, brightest, and most sophisticated person can fall prey to a con artist. There really are no limitations to their reach.

Some victims do share certain circumstances, though. For those who are single, elderly, or are of the female sex, you may have a greater chance of being a target for a con artist. This isn’t because of your intelligence or anything like that. Usually, they can just see that you don’t have anyone with you to compare notes with.

Often, those who are lonely or want to help other people with the good deeds they are doing tend to fall victim to the scams brought forth by con artists. Con artists have an easier time reaching these individuals and getting their cooperation since they are usually single.

How is this group of people targeted by con artists? Often, con artists target the victim’s pensions or retirement accounts, life insurance benefits, home equity, or other financial accounts. This is typically done with the victim’s cooperation, unfortunately, which leaves little room for legal action later on.

Examples Of Scams

Although you don’t really know who a con artist is without hearing what he has to say, there are certain things you can look out for. Watch what they say and how they say it. Here are some classic scams used by con artists that should help you identify who is for real and who isn’t.

These are the buzzwords that should be red flags to you, telling you that something doesn’t add up here. When someone approaches you with one of these offers, keep your guard up.


In reality, most things in life are not free. They either take a great deal of time, hard work, or money. If you’ve won something that is completely free, be sure to read the fine print. Do some investigating to see if the company is for real.

Check the Better Business Bureau’s website so that you can look up the company to check its validity.

Also, check out the details of the free offer. Do you have to pay for shipping and handling? Is it only free for a certain number of days? Do you need to purchase something to get the free part in addition to the paid product?

There is usually a “catch” somewhere down the road. It’s just a matter of finding it. Check out a business before working with them on a “free” offer.

Half Off

Similar to a freebie, an offer for “half off” may imply that you have to pay for quite a bit of product before receiving your free half. What are you getting for half off? Is it something you need and want?

Before you agree to a “half off” offer, be sure you check the validity of the product. Is it something you would normally purchase? What is the regular asking price for this item?

It’s smart to find out the details before you think about paying for half of it. Determine if you would normally buy this item if you didn’t have the deal in front of you. You don’t want to waste money on something you aren’t going to use or want. Also, if you can determine what the original price is, you will know if you are actually getting a bargain or not.

Going Out Of Business

Many companies claim they are going out of business to bring in new business. Some stores always claim they are going out of business. It’s a way to attract customers who think they are getting a bargain on things that they are actually paying regular prices on. This happens a lot in tourist towns where the customers don’t know whether they are actually going out of business or not.

Even companies that are legitimately going out of business jack up their prices so they can make extra money before selling their inventory and passing off the ownership of the store. This means, in reality, the “going out of business” sale is not a deal. Instead, their prices are even greater than they were before, so there are no deals happening. Watch carefully for this.


Have you ever “won a vacation” through a mail flyer? Most of us have received these from time to time. While there are some legitimate sweepstakes out there, the majority of them are scams.

Often, they will require that you pay a specific fee upfront before you are permitted to claim your prize. Don’t fall for this; you shouldn’t have to pay money to win sweepstakes.

If you do fall prey to one of these “illegal lotteries,” you may end up on a very low-cost trip that has additional charges built into it. For example, many all-inclusive resorts or vacations make you pay for alcoholic beverages or taxes for your hotel rooms. Also, many try to con you into joining a club where you must pay a certain fee to have access to other sweepstakes.

Work From Home Scams

While there are some legitimate work-from-home offers out there, there are many that are not worth the trouble. The famous “pyramid schemes” require you to pay a great amount upfront, promising an even higher rate of return on your investment. Sometimes, this is feasible, but it requires a lot more hard work and time than you could have ever imagined.

You might be promised money for stuffing envelopes, which you could easily get, but you’d have to stuff hundreds of envelopes in order to see any money on your end. Also, they forget to mention that you must pay for the envelopes and flyers – all of the costs associated with the work-from-home job. Earning extra money with a real side hustle takes hard work and dedication.

Other Scams To Watch Out For

If you come across someone who says they want cash only and can offer you no receipts, invoices, purchase orders, legal paperwork, or any other documentation proving their legitimacy, you should beware. Also, be cautious of offers that sound “too good to be true.” They usually are! Likewise, “get rich quick” schemes usually don’t pan out.

Other keywords to watch out for include: “hurry now,” “this offer won’t last,” “today only,” and certain contests that promise “prizes” to specific winners only. If someone calls you out of the blue with an offer that sounds absolutely unbelievable, it may not be legitimate. You may want to consult a financial advisor, attorney, or even the police if the matter calls for it.

If you’ve never heard of an offer, or it sounds like it will solve all of your problems, you might want to think twice before signing anything. Some of the industries these scams operate in include tax shelters, cattle, aluminum siding, and credit cards. Other possible industries include home improvement, the United States postal service, investment firms, and banks.

What You Should Know About Telemarketing Scams

Probably one of the most popular scams out there is a telemarketing phone scam. These are done via the telephone, and they are popular because it’s almost a billion-dollar industry. In other words, they get results by doing this, even though customers probably hate them the most.

It’s also easy; anyone with a telephone is a potential victim. How many wrong numbers call you on an average day?

It’s very difficult to tell the difference between legitimate callers and scammers because they both have answers for just about every question you ask. So, how can you tell the difference?

One thing you can do is ask plenty of questions. True, they may have answers for every one of them, but swindlers are going to be much more nervous and questionable in their answers since they may be making them up on the spot. Make sure you get your actual questions answered before handing out any of your personal questions, such as your financial or personal information.

How To Determine If It Is A Scam Or Not

The first thing you need to find out is how this company or individual got your name. Did they randomly select it out of the phone book, or did they purchase your name and contact information from another company? If you ask them this question and they are caught off-guard, there’s a strong possibility that they will give up trying to pitch to you any longer.

The second question you need to ask is if they will send you written documentation or contracts spelling out the details of the offer. If they are legitimate, they should have no problem giving this to you. If they are just cold-calling you, they may not have anything to send you because it’s all made up in their head! Get it all in writing before you sign anything over to them!

Offers that have no downside do not exist. All benefits have some disadvantages or risks involved. Ask the person who is presenting the offer whether there are risks involved.

Then, determine what those risks are. It might be a good idea to make a list of the pros and cons associated with this offer. If you need to, create a weighted pros and cons list, which will be very useful.

With a weighted pro and cons list, you can assign a weight to every pro and con. Then, you will add up each column to determine which one has the majority of the points assigned to it. This way, when you make your decision, you can do so with confidence because you have carefully weighed the pros and cons associated with the deal. It will also give you more time to think.

Another point you can bring up with the salesman or woman you are working with is that you’d like to see a list of references. If they are a newer company, they may not have client testimonials, references, or satisfied customer reviews to show you. In that case, you will need to use your best judgment, but either way, you can look them up on BBB, as mentioned earlier.

Finally, let’s not forget the legal aspects of scams. Be sure you consult an attorney or legal professional if you suspect something fishy is going on. They can review the materials you were provided with and help you make the smartest choice.

Ask the salesman if they’d be willing to speak to your attorney to explain the offer. If they quickly decline, you know something is going on.

A lawyer can review all documentation to make sure the offer is legitimate or not. If the caller or salesman refuses to talk to your attorney because of time constraints or because it is out of their scope of expertise, take caution before working with them. Often, con artists get asked this question and claim to have sent the paperwork to your attorney when really they did nothing.

Talk to your lawyer to find out if the con artist spoke to them or sent them anything in the mail. If not, ask the salesperson/con artist to please try again. You might even want to put your foot down and insist that the con artist speaks to your attorney, or no deal will be made.

Many will just hang up and look for the next person on their list. That’s good, though, because you’ll know it was a scam.

How To Avoid Scams

  1. Don’t feel rushed into doing anything.
    There’s often a lot of pressure involved with scammers. Make sure you take your time to research and reflect on an offer and don’t allow them to make you feel like you must rush to make a decision.
  2. Ask for supportive documentation about the deal.
    Request them to mail you the details about the offer. That will give you plenty of time to think about the offer to decide if it’s right for you.
  3. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal.
    Most deals are not set in stone. You should feel alright if you need to walk away to consider other offers.
  4. Avoid signing anything you do not fully understand.
    It’s best to seek the advice of a business professional, someone who specializes in that area and knows whether the deal is legitimate or not.
  5. Never give out your financial information over the telephone.
    This one may sound quite obvious, but really it is important that you do not give out your bank information or credit card numbers to anyone over the phone.
  6. Make sure the business is regulated.
    Ask the salesperson which government organization monitors it.
  7. Verify any testimonials or reviews to the best of your ability.
    On Amazon, for example, when you read reviews, you can see if someone actually purchased the product or not by looking for the “Verified” mark.
  8. Ask that the details be sent to a service professional you trust.
    If you need to send the information to your lawyer or tax professional, make sure the person allows you to do so. If not, I’d question the validity of the offer.
  9. Find out what happens if you are not fully satisfied.
    Will you get your money back? Will you get a partial refund? These are great questions for you to ask before investing in an offer.
  10. Look up the credentials that backup the organization to verify its validity.
    Below there are many resources for you to check, so you will be able to verify if the business is real or not. Do they have a legitimate phone number? Are they asking for personal information like your social security number?

Tips From The FTC TO Avoid Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends you follow these steps to avoid travel scams:

    • Watch for “free” vacations where you must put some money upfront. They aren’t really free if you have to pay for part of them; are they?
    • If they ask for your financial, credit card, or bank account information, they are most likely going to charge something to your account, so be watchful for this, and only give out your information if you are confident in their credibility.
    • If you receive a text message on your phone, an email out of the blue, or a telephone “cold” call, you should watch out. These are usually not legitimate offers.
    • You won something and now want to know the details of the award you received, but it’s like tooth and nail trying to get that information. This is typical of travel scams. If you can’t read the fine print, it’s most likely a scam from a con artist.
    • If you are pressured to sign up for a travel deal, there usually isn’t a bargain and/or a free vacation involved. Instead, you are signing up for a long-term commitment that costs some amount of money, possibly even more money than was promised by the original offer.
    • Robocalls are almost always given to you by con artists. They are sneaky, too. They may call you from numbers that are in the same area code as you because they want you to think it is a local number calling. This is called “caller ID spoofing.”

If you suspect you have been the victim of a vacation/travel scam, be sure to contact the FTC or other applicable government agency right away so that they are able to look into the scam artist. You can report the individual or company directly to the Federal Trade Commission on their Fraud Reporting page.

The FTC also recommends you check with the National Association of Attorneys General and your local consumer protection agency before working with any business that may be a part of a scam or could be a con artist.


Call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP for help with lots of different kinds of scams, including credit card scams, Ponzi schemes, Coronavirus scams, and investment scams.

Call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-800-424-9393 for automotive assistance with vehicle recalls and safety information.

Call the United States Tour Operators Association at 1-212-750-7371 to find out more about how they can assist by protecting consumer funds.

Call the North American Securities Administrators Association at 1-202-737-0900 to check out any promoter or salesperson selling investments.

Call the National Futures Association at 1-321-781-1300 to find out how they safeguard markets and other securities.


Make sure you are wise when investing your money or handing out the details of your identity. There are all kinds of skilled con artists out there, waiting to prey on victims; and really, anyone can be a victim. If you suspect you are being taken advantage of, please contact the authorities right away and file a scam report.

If you need help with your taxes or business consultations, please contact Borshoff Consulting. We are happy to help you or find someone who can!

You can trust Indiana’s tax expert to represent you in the event of an audit or other tax matter. We help individuals and small businesses with tax representation and audit assistance. Let us know how we can assist you today!


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