Scam V. Real Opportunity?

In times like this, when prices for food, rent, utilities, and other expenses are high, we may be tempted to respond to those ads that promise us we can “make lots of money” with “little or no risk.”

By Catherine Blinder

Although it may seem like a good way to earn some extra income, they are just another way for scammers to steal your money.

Many scammers target members of the military, especially those just returning from service, elderly people on fixed incomes, and those who may not speak English as their first language.

When you hear about a “once in a lifetime” investment opportunity, or a “sure way to get rich,” remember that it’s always best to step back, take a breath, not respond emotionally, and talk to trusted family members and friends about it. 

Making emotional decisions without thinking something through is what scammers depend on – because they know that if you stop to really think about it, you will realize it is too good to be true and say no. Scammers depend on us to respond quickly and emotionally, then they pull you in with grand promises that will turn out to be lies and deception.

But how do you tell the difference between a legitimate investment or job opportunity— and a scam?

Investment scams create the impression that you can make lots of money quickly. They often start on social media, online dating apps, or from an unexpected text, email, or phone call. Scammers have developed sophisticated ways to target trusting people, and the best way to avoid falling victim is to think rather than respond emotionally. That’s not always easy when something sounds really promising!

Here are a few tips to follow:

Don’t accept any unsolicited offers. If you get an unexpected call, text, or email about “an amazing investment opportunity,” it’s a scam. Always. Hang up immediately, engaging them will only put you on a list that scammers refer to as the “sucker list,” and your number will be sold to other scammers who will continue to call you.  Just hang up.

Don’t believe promises that you’ll make money or earn guaranteed returns. No one can guarantee you’ll make lots of money with little to no risk. Anyone who promises you that is a scammer.

Reject the high-pressure pitch. Scammers will often pressure you to act fast, saying that you’ll miss the opportunity if you fail to act quickly – “This offer will end tomorrow.” They try to plant an image in your head of what life will be like when you’re rich. Don’t believe it. Legitimate investments let you take the time you need to investigate before spending any money. Anyone who promises to make you rich quickly is a scammer.

Do your own research. Don’t make any investment until you’ve checked it out and fully understand what you’re investing in, and the terms of the offer. Research the investment and the person offering it. Search online for the name of the company plus “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.”

You are probably able to spot a scam, but chances are, you know others who don’t. Sharing what you know could help a family member, colleague, servicemember, veteran, or neighbor in your life avoid investment scams. 

(If you have identified a scam, please report it at

Another scam we’ve seen increase this year is the “You got the job” scam. These usually offer the opportunity to work from home and make “top dollar.”  They may offer to send you a check to buy supplies.  You don’t really understand what the “job” is, but they will stay in touch constantly, promising a large check but slowly asking for money to “assure you the best payout.” 

Your alarm bells should be ringing about now. This dream job has the earmarks of a job scam.

Last year, tens of thousands of people in this country reported business and job opportunity scams to the Federal Trade Commission, making them one of the Top 10 frauds reported to the FTC in 2022.

These scams will offer you the opportunity to start your own business or earn “big bucks” working from home. Some are pyramid schemes, or multi-level marketing schemes claiming you can make good money by selling their products, but in fact, your earnings entirely depend on you recruiting new participants. Other scams are fake job listings or employment services aimed at tricking you into handing over your money and personal information. 

You know by now that you should never, ever give anyone you don’t know your personal information.

In 2022 $367 million was lost to business and job opportunity scams. The average loss was $2,000. No matter how much your income is, losing $2,000 will hurt. 

Here are a few ways to help you figure out whether an opportunity is the real deal or a scam to get your money and personal information:

Do your own research. Again, type the name of the company into your search bar with the addition of “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.”  If there is any legal action against the company, or if there are complaints to state and local authorities, it will show up.

You can try to reach out to the company directly using contact information you know is legitimate. If there is no legitimate website or contact number, you can be sure they are scammers. Be your own fraud detective!

Never trust a “cleared” check. No honest employer will ever send you a check and then tell you to buy supplies, gift cards, or something else and send back whatever money is left. That’s a fake check scam. The check will bounce, and the bank will want you to repay the amount of the fake check.

And you know those other real-looking checks you get sometimes? Those are not real. Think about it – what stranger is going to send you a check for a few thousand dollars for no reason? Those “free” checks are also a scam, and again, just toss them in the trash and pass the information on to your friends and family! You can help keep everyone safe from scammers.

Learn more at 

This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at