How to protect yourself against fraud

Americans report losses of more than a billion dollars a year to these common frauds.

Mass marketing fraud is a significant source of income for international crime rings. Con artists ignore geographic boundaries to reach out to potential victims by phone, email, postal mail, and through the Internet, and then trick them into sending money or giving out personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans report losses of more than a billion dollars a year to these frauds. Here are 10 things you can do to stop a scam:

Keep in mind that wiring money is like sending cash: Don’t wire money to strangers, to sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment, or to someone who claims to be a relative in an emergency (and wants to keep the request a secret).

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know. That includes an online merchant you’ve never heard of — or an online love interest who asks for money or favors.

Don’t respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial information, whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad.

Don’t play a foreign lottery. Inevitably, you’ll be asked to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect your prize. If you send money, you won’t get it back, regardless of the promises.

Don’t agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back, no matter how convincing the story. When a check turns out to be a fake, it’s you who is responsible for paying back the bank.

Read your bills and monthly statements regularly — on paper and online. If you see charges you don’t recognize or didn’t okay, contact your bank, card issuer, or other creditor immediately.

In the wake of a natural disaster or another crisis, give to established charities rather than one that seems to have sprung up overnight.

Talk to your doctor before buying health products or signing up for medical treatments. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired or mislabeled — in short, products