Scams are everywhere around us.

Some scams are easy to recognize while others are very deceptive. Sometimes they can impersonate legitimate businesses such as credit card and insurance companies. They will often have the same look, format, paper, layout, and items you fill out for personal information such as your social security number, contact information, and credit card account number.

Through the years, con-artists have tricked many people into giving in to what was thought to be a good thing, but turned out to be a sour deal. Thieves have stolen items such as money, homes, possessions, and even their victim's identity.

According to the Jan. 25 Federal Trade Commission report, 686,000 complaints relating to fraud were filed in 2005. The FTC listed the top ten fraud complaints. Identity theft was at the top of the list, according to the report.

There are many types of scams. Examples include fake charities, telemarketing fraud, the Nigerian scam, work-at-home schemes, and insurance scams.

Charles Bronson, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Service, suggests ways in which you can become protected against fraud. According to Bronson, the more educated people are about fraud, the better protected they will be. "When consumers know what scams are out there and what to look for, they can take steps to protect themselves," Bronson said.

Identify Theft

According to Bronson, identity theft continues to be a growing threat to consumers. In order to protect themselves from having their identity stolen, Bronson suggests the consumer should always review credit card statements to make sure there are no unauthorized purchases. In addition, credit card and other personal information should never be given over the telephone unless you made the contact.

Investments

Bronson warns consumers about investments that promises high returns with little or no investment in the part of the consumer. To avoid the trap, Bronson advises the consumer to ask about any fees, commissioners, penalities, and other costs you might be paying.

Charities

According to Bronson, an organization that has an impressive sounding name does not always mean that it is reputable. Bronson also warns consumers to be very cautious about any organization that sends out a "runner" to pick up your contribution. Legitimate charitable organizations, according to Bronson, are willing to wait to receive your donation.

Bronson encourages consumers to contact the Department's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-435-7354 for any information about a business, such as a history of complaints, before doing business with them.

On a local level, Sheriff Carson McCall says, "Be conscious of any deals that may sound too good to be true. If in doubt, please call your local Sheriff's office to verify the validity of the deal."

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