How to Avoid a Scammer, Part II: Scams and Ponzi schemes

Scammers are getting better at getting you to sign up for online services, so the next time you sign up on a service that looks promising but turns out to be a scam, think twice.

“Scams are the new penny stocks,” said Paul Berenson, a vice president at Berenstock, a financial advisory firm in Manhattan.

“You’ve got to be prepared for a few of them.”

Here’s how to avoid one, and how to do it the hard way.

How to avoid a scam.


Make sure you’re getting your information from a trustworthy source.

If you sign on to a service, make sure it’s a reputable one.

“A lot of the time, people are signing up to services like Facebook because they want to see who’s posting on it,” Berenhall said.

“If you have a company that has never done anything on Facebook, it’s not going to get a good impression.”


Use a reputable domain name.

If a service asks you to register a new domain name, be sure you’ve spelled it correctly.

If not, make the domain your company’s.

If it’s the wrong name, it could result in your account being blocked.

“It’s always good to be as clear as possible when you’re signing up for a service,” Billett said.


Be sure to change your password regularly.

If someone steals your password and your account is temporarily suspended, change it, as well.

If the service doesn’t recognize your new password, call your bank or credit card company and ask if they can help.


Change your contact information.

If your email address or phone number is associated with your account, be especially careful to change that.

“Make sure you keep your contacts and email addresses up to date with your business so that they can’t be used to commit fraud,” Bettmann said.


Set up a secure password manager.

“I’ve seen a lot of people sign up to Facebook for a variety of reasons,” Berentson said.

The site requires you to create a secure log-in, which is a unique password for your account.

If an account has been suspended, the login will be invalidated.

But if your account has not been suspended and you’ve not logged out or changed your password, you will still be able to use the site.


Verify your credit card information.

A bank can check your credit reports, Berenall said.

This will show whether your account was used to make fraudulent purchases.


Check your email for spam.

If there’s a link to an email address with a suspicious subject, make it clear you’re only signing up on the service you want to use.

If they ask, say you’re not interested.

“Do not click on anything you don’t understand,” Berellas said.


Keep your credit and debit card statements in good order.

“Always make sure that your bank, credit card issuer, or company you’re using to use your services has good security measures in place,” Berman said.


Ask for verification.

“Pay your bills on time and do your research before signing up,” Bertlett said.


Know your rights.

If something seems off or confusing, it may be best to call a bank or check with your credit provider to make sure you understand the terms of the service and what you’re agreeing to.

“Be prepared for the worst,” Bervin said.