“Whoever is detected in a shameful fraud is ever after not believed even if they speak the truth” -Phaedrus
I believe in trusting others. I also believe in the old proverb, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
I was “fooled” years ago and will never let it happen again. Here’re my top six tips to avoid being scammed on the Internet:
1. Do Your Due Diligence
Before paying someone for products or services, do your due diligence and conduct a background check. The amount of money you spend should dictate how thorough your background check will be.
Start with Google. Search the person’s name or business. Add the word fraud to your search and see what the results are. For more expensive decisions, use paid investigative services and check for civil and criminal lawsuits and bankruptcies, see these background investigative services.
For extremely important or confidential needs, have your lawyer (and his or her investigator) do the due diligence background check for you.
2. Ask Trusted Friends
Before making a big purchase for a course or event, ask trusted online or offline friends what their experiences have been with the person or organization. Invite them to share their thoughts publically or privately. Depending on the product or service, ask someone at your place of business what he or she thinks. Often, a less emotional and more objective opinion will help make your decision a more informed one.
3. Written Agreements
Make sure that you’ve reviewed and understood all of the terms and conditions of all online buying opportunities. Read all disclaimers and guarantees posted by the seller.
Depending on the nature of your transaction (conferences and speaking gigs), enter into a clear and concise written agreement with all parties (speaker, hotel, third party vendors). Everyone will understand what is expected of them and what their responsibilities are. Should something go wrong, accountability and liability (refunds, damages) will be clearly understood.
4. Be Specific with Your Demand for Repayment
When something happens because of fraud, immediately reach out to the product or service provider and demand a full reimbursement. Put your request in writing and send your demand by email and also by either certified mail return receipt requested or Federal Express.
Your demand for repayment should be unambiguous. Just state something along the lines of “I am demanding a full refund of my purchase price.” Also be specific as to when this needs to happen. For example, “you have five days to complete the refund.”
This is one area I see many people drop the ball. Their communications to the fraudulent scammer are unclear and uncertain. Instead of asking for their money back they let the other person take charge and then give one excuse for delay after another. The better approach is to be clear with your demand for a refund within the specific time parameter.
5. Credit Cards
Most of the major credit card companies will refund you 100% for any fraudulent activity and billing. If you do business online or, make a lot of online purchases, it’s a good idea to visit the major credit card companies and research which card is best for you.
Once you select your credit card, only use this particular credit card for all online purchases. This will allow you to keep track of your online activity. It will also enable you to stop payment on a fraudulent transaction and get the refund added back to your account.
6. Protect Your Community
If you’ve been scammed, let your community know about it. The chances are good that you’re not the first or last person, who was scammed.
Many of these criminals are extremely good at what they do. That’s what makes them successful con-artist (think Bernie Madoff)
Remember, if you’re a victim of fraud, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Your community will surround you with support and help. I wrote about how important it is to watch out for each other in this related post, “Do the Right Thing in Your Social Media Community.”
Today’s Periscope (live video)