Ads on television or a friendly voice on the phone, can make a product or proposition sound mighty tempting.

But the products often disappoint and those friendly voices can belong to evil scammers.

How can you tell if you are talking to a scammer?

One thing you can do is have some firm rules about how you deal with people online or on the phone.

1. Know who you are dealing with. Is it really your grandson on the phone asking for money? Ask a question about the family that he would know but a scammer wouldn’t. If you are ordering online, read product reviews. Search for a company’s name online. See what others say about them.

2. Wiring money is like sending cash. You can’t get your money back. Don’t agree to swap a check for a wire transfer. Checks take a while to clear. Wire transfers are instant.

3. Be skeptical of claims of instant results. Beauty and health product are notorious for these claims.

4. Never reveal your social security number and birthdate over the telephone, in email or on the phone. Those two pieces of information can give a scammer all he needs to ruin your life.

5. Don’t play a foreign lottery. There is a reason this is illegal. If you must send any money, for any reason, then you haven’t won anything. You will lose your money. There will be nothing you can do about it.

Be an informed consumer; avoid scams and fraud! Visit to find out more.

Smart apps for your smartphone

  • Instant Heart Rate app ($1.98) requires that you place your finger over the phone’s camera sensor and flash. It tells your heart rate and keeps a record of it.
  • Dot Measure will determine height and distance ($1.50 for Android, free for iPhone). It’s handy for measuring a room, the size of your yard or whether your sofa will fit through the door.
  • USA Today’s Edward C. Baig developed this list of apps and others. He is the author of iPhone for Dummies.
  • Google Translate app for Android and iPhone is free and part of the Bing Translator app. Includes French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. It’s handy for reading signs.
  • CamScanner allows you to take a picture of any document, receipt or photo and instantly convert it to high-quality PDF or JPG format. It’s free for all three major phone systems.

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