Is it a scam or poor marketplace behavior?

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Protecting Yourself Online This Holiday Season


CROMWELL  — One of the reasons fraud against consumers is so common, is because sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether you are the target of a swindle or victim of unethical business practices.

When an identifiable company, professional or store deceives customers, performs sloppy work or doesn’t deliver on promises, that constitutes poor marketplace behavior.  A scam is quite different, and best described as “a dishonest scheme, fraud or swindle.”  Scams are carried out by individuals and organizations that pretend to represent a legitimate business or government department.  The criminals’ goal involves using deception to obtain personal or financial information.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers six red flags that you are being courted by a criminal:

High pressure sales/time-limited offers – The scammer will try to convince you that you will get a substantial discount if you sign a contract right away.  In such cases, the con artist will try to dominate the conversation and make it difficult to disengage.  These tactics are designed to get you to sign a contract on the spot and pay a deposit, which, like the criminal, soon disappears.

Unsolicited contact – Contact may come in the form of a telephone call, mail, email, a link on social media or other website, fax or voicemail message.  Beware of offers that you did not solicit.

Personal information required – The most frightening and successful tactic involves criminals reciting the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN) in an attempt to lend legitimacy to their pitches.  Keep in mind that your date of birth, name and address are all valuable to identity thieves.  Never give out this information to anyone unless you initiated the communication.

Untraceable payment method required – One of the easiest red flags to spot is a demand for payment by an untraceable method such as a wire transfer, preloaded gift card or cashier’s check.  Legitimate businesses allow consumers to pay by credit or debit card or check.

Lack of contact information – Visit to see if the business exists and whether there are any consumer complaints.

It’s a bad sign if you can’t find any information on the company.  If you are interested in their product or service, ask for a brochure, recent referrals and contact information.  The scammers are very persistent and try to catch potential victims off guard.  They usually impersonate someone from your financial institution, doctor’s office or government department.

Something just doesn’t feel right – Many scam victims say they disregarded a gut feeling that something didn’t feel right about a transaction.  Use common sense and don’t ignore your instincts.  They are often accurate.

The best advice to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to be skeptical of any sort of contact that you did not initiate.  Don’t be rushed into making any buying decisions, and avoid doing business at your front door or over the telephone.