To protect yourself, watch out for the following signs of a scam:

  • Promises of receiving large quantities of money with little or no work.

  • Requirements of large payments in advance, before you have a chance to examine a product or business.

  • Guarantees that you can never lose your money.

  • Assurances that "This is not a scam!" along with specific laws cited to prove the legality of an offer. When was the last time you walked into K-Mart or McDonald's and the business owner had to convince you that you weren't going to be cheated?

  • Ads that have LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS and punctuation!!! or that shout "MIRACLE CURE!!!" or "Make BIG $$$$$ MONEY FAST!!!!!" should be viewed with healthy skepticism.

  • Hidden costs. Many scams offer free information, and then quietly charge you an "entrance" or "administrative" fee.

  • Any investment ideas that appear unsolicited in your email account.

Just remember: You can't get something for nothing (unless you're the one running a con game on others).

To learn more about scams (whether to protect yourself or to get ideas on how to fleece others), visit your favorite search engine and look for the following terms: scam, fraud, pyramid scheme, Ponzi, and packet sniffer. Or contact one of the following agencies:

  • Cagey Consumer Offers updated information about the latest promotions, offers, and con games (

  • Council of Better Business Bureaus Check out a U.S. business to see if it has any past history of fraud, deception, or consumer complaints filed against it (

  • Federal Trade Commission Lists consumer protection rules and guidelines that all U.S. businesses must follow; also provides news on the latest scams (

  • Fraud Bureau A free service established to alert online consumers and investors of prior complaints relating to online vendors, including sellers at online auctions, and to provide consumers, investors, and users with information and news on how to safely surf, shop, and invest on the Net (

  • International Web Police The International Web Police provide law enforcement services for Internet users. Many International Web Police officers are also land-based law enforcement officers who can help resolve crime through the Internet (

  • National Fraud Information Center Issues timely news on the latest scams and the status of ongoing and past investigations. The site allows you to lodge your own complaint against a business and read information to help avoid scams (

  • ScamBusters Provides information regarding all sorts of online threats, ranging from live and hoax computer viruses to con games and credit card fraud. By visiting this website periodically, you can make sure you don't fall victim to the latest Internet con game (

  • Scams on the Net Provides multiple links to various scams circulating around the Internet. Search through here to make sure any offer you receive doesn't fall under the scam category that has tricked others (

  • ScamWatch ScamWatch assists victims of web fraud and scams. Their website allows anyone to post suspected scams for other web users to read and post their comments or suggestions concerning these scams. If ScamWatch determines that a scam exists, they'll work to help resolve the problem (

  • Securities and Exchange Commission The U.S. SEC regulates security markets and provides investing advice, information on publicly traded companies, warnings about investment scams, assistance to investors who believe they may have been conned, and links to other federal and state enforcement agencies. If you're one of those boomers flinging money into the stock market, check it out (