Five Scams to Avoid in the New Year

Computer next to a pile of money
Computer next to a pile of money

It's an unfortunate fact of life – when unemployment looms large, so do the number of scam artists looking to make a quick buck. That's why, despite headlines that predict a good year for jobs in 2011, it's time to remind yourself that folks will be looking to prey upon your naïveté and kindness -- quite possibly with the following five ploys.

Money for College
Student loan debt now exceeds outstanding credit card debt, according to CNBC. So it's no wonder the FTC says scams that purport to be able to find you free money for college are raging. Just say no to any deal that asks you to pay money – up front – for a list of scholarships you might qualify for (even if you're offered a money-back guarantee.)

Be wary of any pitch that indicates the availability of exclusive information. And if you're told that you've been selected as a finalist for a scholarship -- particularly for a contest you don't remember entering, but also for any that now requires an application fee to continue through the process -- run in the other direction. Instead, check with your high school guidance counselor for legitimate scholarship offers. also as a good free scholarship search engine on its website.

Love and Other Drugs
This scam goes something like this. You meet a man -- probably cute -- on an online dating site, exchange some witty repartee, then the new love-of-your-life lets on that he's actually in some foreign country, has lost his passport, platinum plastic and all other means of funding his way back to you. If you could wire him some quick dough (of course he'll pay you back once he's across the pond) he won't just love you tomorrow, he'll love you forever, blah, blah, blah.