People of any age and at any stage of their life are at risk of falling prey to a scam. There are a few rules of thumb to remember and to protect yourself, but always remember one thing: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Victims of consumer scams lose money and time, and may find their reputation has been ruined or they are the target for legal action.

Protect Yourself

Read the small print. Always read every last word of any agreement or contract before signing on. Scam offers may use asterisks, small print, or sophisticated language to hide or confuse the true meaning of what you are signing.

Guard your personal information. If someone requests your personal information, always verify their identity before providing it to them - ask for their name, organization, phone number, and address. Confirm this information through an outside source, such as the company's website or a telephone directory. You may be contacted by credit card companies or banks if they notice unusual transactions or suspect someone else of using your account, but in these cases financial institutions will never request the account number or other identifying information. Rather they will only inquire about specific usage.

If You Are a Victim

Demand a refund. If you become a victim of consumer fraud and lose money, ask the company for a refund. If they refuse or give you an evasive response, tell them you plan to notify law enforcement officials.

Document everything. Keep precise records of every action you take to recover your money. Track all phone calls, keep copies of all paperwork, and do your best to record all costs involving time spent recovering your money.

Seek help from appropriate agencies. If a company refuses to refund your money, there are a number of agencies who might be able to help you. If you suspect that you are a victim of consumer fraud, contact the Consumer Hotline of the Attorney General's Office at (617) 727-8400, or contact your Local Consumer Program. You can also contact: