Be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with a person or a business on the phone, by mail, via email, in person or on social networking, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam – especially if you didn’t initiate the contact. Here’s 7 signs that you may be dealing with a scammer:

1. A request for your personal information

Never give out your Social Security number, credit card or bank account details, online usernames or passwords, or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. If you’ve never met the individual in-person and have only talked online, that person is a stranger and doesn’t need your personal information.

2. An unusual payment request

If you’re trying to buy something online, scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, such as preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin. These payment methods have fewer protections than established payment methods like credit cards or digital wallets.

3. Requests to cash checks for someone or transfer money for them

Don't agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offense. And never, ever cash a check for someone else, especially a stranger or someone who "hired" you to cash checks.

4. A request for money from someone you’ve never met

If you've only ever met someone online, take some time to do a more research before getting further involved with them or sending them money. Search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. Dating scams – both domestic and international – are rampant, and can cost victims tens of thousands of dollars.

5. An unusual or out-of-character message from friends or family

If a message or email appears to come from a friend or family member and seems unusual or out of character, contact the person directly to check that it was really them that sent it. Use a different contact method than the suspicious method – for example, if you get a suspicious email from a friend, send the friend a text or call them to verify it.

6. A request to communicate outside the platform where you made contact

This is almost always an indication of a scammer. For instance, if you’re booking an apartment on AirBnB or buying an item on eBay, and the seller asks to communicate via email outside of AirBnB or eBay, be suspicious. Insist on conducting business and communicating via the platform only.

7. Something that looks too good to be true

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!