Holly Petraeus, Assistant Director, Office of Servicemember Affairs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

When it comes to tricking you out of your money, for scammers it’s Halloween all year long. In 2011, an estimated 25.6 million adults (10.8 percent of the U.S. adult population) were victims of fraud. Consumer scams can take many different forms, from direct marketing to affinity scams and involve everything from identity theft to pension poaching. However, there are a few general tell-tale signs that you can look for if you’re trying to decide if a financial product or service you’re being offered is a scammer’s trick or a financial treat.

Lisa Lake, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Every now and then, many of us get the strange feeling someone’s watching us. Given how easy it is these days for companies to gather information about where we are, what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it, this may well be more than a feeling. Even so, here’s one that really takes the cake:

Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, businesses, pets and livestock to ravaging floodwaters. But it’s despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to tug at your heartstrings and appeal to your sense of generosity. That’s why the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams in connection with the ongoing flooding in Colorado. If you’re looking for a way to give, do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised — and as you intend.

Carol Kando-Pineda, Attorney, FTC

Who doesn’t like to get something for free? That’s what scammers are hoping when they send out messages like this: You've been selected for a free $1000 giftcard! Enter the code 'FREE' at yourfavestore.com.shop.biz to get it now. Only 112 left! Text OUT to stop. But if you do as the text says, you’ll end up at a website that requires you to give up your personal information to claim your “free” gift. Once you’ve shared your information, the site pushes you to sign up for more than a dozen risky trial offers (which aren’t free) to qualify for the supposedly free gift card they promised you. Hold the phone!

Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

If you need some fast cash, you may be tempted by ads touting online payday loans . But before you click on a link and share your personal information, I have a cautionary tale to share. There once was an online payday loan operation that promised to help people find loans. They claimed that they were affiliated with a network of 120 potential payday lenders, and that four out of five people who applied were approved. What’s more, they touted that 80 percent of applicants got loans in as little as one hour. Lies, I tell you. Lies!

Nicole Vincent Fleming, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Thinking of buying an IP camera to keep an eye on your home or business when you’re away? Or maybe you‘ve already set up a security camera that you can access remotely? If so, you’ll want to read this news from the FTC. TRENDNet, a tech supplier, has agreed to settle FTC charges that the company didn’t provide adequate security for internet cameras it marketed as a way to monitor “babies at home, patients in the hospital, offices and banks, and more.”

Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, first warned consumers to be on the lookout for flood-damaged cars in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Almost a year later, news reports indicate that water-damaged cars that endured Hurricane Sandy are being sold by private sellers and showing up on used car lots. AAA officials say nearly two-thirds of cars damaged in Hurricane Sandy are showing up in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Illinois and Mississippi. These polished-up cars may look great on the outside, but the damage lurking on the inside from being submerged in corrosive saltwater for days will only lead to problems down the road.

Andrew Clark, Assistant Director, Consumer Protection Branch, U.S. Department of Justice

So you’ve just reported to your first duty station and you’re thinking you could use a set of wheels. Just make sure you’re not the one who gets rolled. There’s an army of car salesmen camped outside your base. And their mission is to capture a large piece of your paycheck – and many paychecks to come. To navigate the minefield of car buying, keep these tips in mind:

Chelsea Langston, Education and Development Manager, NACA

On July 17 th , the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) was proud to partner with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other governmental agencies and advocacy organizations, to celebrate the first ever Military Consumer Protection Day at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Military Consumer Protection Day is an organized, national promotion to equip service-members, veterans, and their families with the knowledge and resources they need to make positive consumer financial decisions and avoid fraud. The Military Consumer Protection Day’s Inaugural Congressional Information Fair on Capitol Hill provided an opportunity for NACA and other partner organizations to highlight the plethora of resources we have to offer service-member consumers and their families.

Carol Kando-Pineda , Attorney, FederalTrade Commission

We’re all consumers and information is the first line of defense in the marketplace. Everyone can benefit from amping up their consumer know-how and getting the inside skinny on avoiding scams.