How to protect yourself against scammers: Be smart, be vigilant and do your research

PHOENIX - "You've won $1 million!"

If it's written on a letter in your mailbox, be careful, it's probably a scam.

Scammers are still using the slightly less-technical mailbox to cash-in on potential victims. They're also getting a bit more clever attacking your email, cell phone and even your credit card.

You need to pay attention and remember which sweepstakes and contests you've actually entered.

Some scams can appear legitimate while others can just be bizarre.

- If an employee found on Craigslist asks you to send them money - don't!

- If you get a check in the mail from someone you don't know for something you didn't do -- throw it away.

- Don't wire money to anyone or send them a money order.

You have to also remember not to click on any links in your email or within a text message that you aren't familiar with. Sometimes, as soon as you click that button, you've given the scammer complete access to your phone or computer and the confidential information inside.

Anytime you question the validity of a text message or an email, call the business's customer service line and ask them. It only takes a few minutes to call the company to make sure you're not being scammed. And it protects the money and information you treasure.

Another big tip to remember is don't answer phone calls from numbers you don't recognize. Let the call go to voicemail. If someone needs to reach you, they should leave you a message.

From the Microsoft computer scam to the One Ring phone scam , the scammers are relentless (and clever). if you aren't vigilant, you could be their next victim. 

And I can't say this enough, never give money to a contractor that you have not thoroughly researched.  It's just too easy for unskilled and unscrupulous fraudsters to pose as reputable employees and then run off with all of your money (and without finishing the job)!

These people won't be wearing a sign that says they are awful so you have to check them out for yourself.

The Registrar of Contractors can tell you if a company's license and insurance are in good standing. They can also check if any complaints have been filed against them.

The ROC even has a "Most Wanted" page where you can look up some of the worst offenders.

When in doubt, do some research on your own. It not only will make you feel safer, but it will protect you.

Let me know about your consumer issues by emailing me at joe@abc15.com or by "Liking" my Let Joe Know Facebook Page and telling me about it there.

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