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How to get free money: Beware the scams

Tax season is right around the corner, meaning there are waves of eager taxpayers waiting to cash in on claiming refunds. However, it also means that some scamming may occur over the next couple of months. 

Get your unclaimed money
Every year, the U.S. government owes money to a notable amount of people. However, if people or organizations fail to claim those funds, the property or cash will become unclaimed, which generally means it will be held in a general fund in the meantime, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These funds are held in perpetuity for the original person or organization to reclaim at a later date. This process can happen with banks, credit unions, pensions, and other sources. The money that is owed to a particular person cannot be claimed by another individual.

While this process alone is good - it means that failing to collect on a tax return or another issuance of money doesn't mean that you lose access to the funds forever - it also creates a scenario in which crooks can scam unsuspecting individuals.

Pay to collect your free money
The tax code and financial laws are very tricky for the average American. That's why when a seemingly knowledgeable third party says that you may have free money waiting for you in a state's general fund or the like, you may be loathe to pass on the opportunity. There are people out there that claim to be trusted third parties or the U.S. government offering you your unclaimed money in exchange for a small fee. Unfortunately, this is almost always the work of crooks, according to USA.gov. In reality, government agencies will not call to tell you about your unclaimed money. It's up to you find out if you have any unclaimed funds.

Don't fall for scammers that claim to be government officials. The Federal Trade Commission noted a few tips that will help you protect yourself from these individuals.

  • Don't wire money
  • Don't give away your personal information over the phone
  • Don't pay for any prize you've allegedly won
  • Don't trust names and numbers - government officials will not call to collect funds via telephone.

Another helpful piece of advice, you can put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry to alert sales people that you are uninterested in services. According to the FTC, most sales organizations will honor the Do Not Call list, meaning the ones that continue to call you are likely scammers.

In actuality, there are few routes to free money out there. Services that offer you cash likely require you to devote some amount of time or expertise in exchange. There are services out that require less expertise and have shorter time commitments, though. These services still require a little work, but they seem like a practically free route to extra cash. Online surveys for money are just one of these "free" methods of earning cash.

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