Jeanette Pavini breaks down these scams for you.


Premise: An imposter (pretending to be a government official, family member, etc) convinces you to wire money to pay taxes, fees or help a loved one

Grandparent scam: common version targeting elderly – someone calls pretending to be grandchild or other relative, says they are in jail or stuck in foreign country have bad connection, need you to wire money immediately

Telltale signs:

--No government agency will ever ask you to wire money
--Call is frantic / resist urge to act quickly
--May call in middle of night to catch you off guard
--Asks to wire money to foreign country
--“grandchild” can’t answer simple questions (test them by asking questions only they would know but that don’t give away person information i.e. what high school did you go to? Name of first pet?)

What to do:

--Unfortunately when you wire money it’s typically gone forever but you should report it to help make sure other don’t fall victim. File a complaint with the FTC and include:

--Date & time of call
--Name of government agency imposter used (if applicable)

--What they told you, amount of money and payment method

--Phone number of caller

File complaint with state Attorney General


Premise: a mailer, call or email says you won a trip, prize, lottery or sweepstakes. You are asked to pay a fee to get your earnings.

Telltale signs:

--Person calling is excited and “can’t wait” to get you your winnings
--You never entered to win
--There’s a fee, taxes or custom duties to pay before you can get winnings
--You need to wire money or give credit card # or bank account info to redeem prize

What to do:
--Put your name on the National Do Not Call Registry. This won’t prevent scammers from calling but helps screen calls – giving you reason to doubt telemarketing calls


Premise: phone call or door-to-door scammer requests money for a group, often a group that sounds similar to an organization you’ve heard of

Telltale signs:

--Pressure to donate now
--Ask for cash or money wire
--Refuse requests to mail info or give details like how money will be used
--Thank you for a past donation you don’t remember making
--Increase in charity scams after natural disaster, tugging on people’s heart strings to help with relief efforts

What to do:

--Research charities before you donate
--Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance

Be hesitant of charities that pop up after a disaster – even legitimate ones sometimes lack the infrastructure to properly distribute donations.

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Get more from Jeanette at and follow her on Twitter @JeanettePavini

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