If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Everyone wants a side hustle. A lot of us have even tried a side hustle.

But, sometimes you don’t want to hustle. Sometimes you just want to click “next episode,” polish off a tray of homemade s’mores nachos and watch your bank account grow.

Professor Utonium reaches for a remote and says, "Help me!"

It’s times like these you’re most susceptible to financial scams.

While there’s nothing wrong with taking a risk on a new investment, it’s important to distinguish real exciting new business opportunities from “exciting new business opportunities” that’ll come back to bite you.

So, before you make money moves, be sure to check for these common red flags of financial scams:

1. Suspicious hyperlinks

You don’t need to “click here to claim your return”. Your account is not “out of date.” You don’t need to “update your credit card information.” Your bank will never email you asking for sensitive information.

Marge Simpson says, "That doesn't sound like me."

Suspicious hyperlinks that seem to come from reputable places—like your bank—are a sign of phishing, a common internet scam that tries to trick you into giving up your personal details. If you spot one, don’t click it and report the email.

“Phishy” links also come in the form of text messages and DMs. In short, don’t give out your financial information online.

2. Outrageous product claims

If a product promises miracle results, it’s probably a scam. Making unbelievable claims about a product is one of the most common signs of a pyramid scheme (or, in today’s lingo, a multi-level marketing scheme).

Gerald from "Hey Arnold" says, "Don't try to make sense out of it. A miracle is a miracle."

Scammers trying to engage you in a multi-level marketing scheme will often ask you to “invest” in a seemingly magical product by buying and stocking large amounts of inventory and promising to recruit new investors. They say your “investment” will eventually pay off, but it rarely does.

Keep in mind the golden rule of financial scams: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. High-pressure sales tactics

Financial scammers will often try to get you to send them money immediately—so you don’t have time to think twice.

A woman taps a watch on her wrist as if to say, "Hurry up."

To do this, they might pretend to be a family member or tell you a family member is at stake. Your aunt Gloria isn’t stranded in Alaska—and, if she was, she wouldn’t need you to send your last paycheque overseas.

If you find yourself feeling pressured to make financial decisions quickly, it might be a scam.

4. Flakiness

This one’s most common among landlords and people selling luxury items online. If a person consistently refuses to take your calls, meet you in person or show you photos of a product, chances are it’s a scam.

Real salespeople don’t ghost you.

A man looks around and squats down.

5. Unnecessary fees

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you shouldn’t have to pay to apply for a job.

Job scamming is quite common on Instagram. A small account impersonating a major brand will announce they’re looking for new recruits—all you need to do is repost their content, tag them, pay a small fee, and input your personal information.

For the most part, brands like Yeezy don’t recruit new ambassadors on Instagram—they don’t need to.

Be cautious if you’re asked to pay a fee to submit a job application or input your personal information into a site without “https://” at the beginning of the URL. Being too generous with sensitive information can leave your bank account vulnerable to theft.

6. Collaboration comments

It’s a tale as old as time. An up-and-coming fashion or lifestyle brand leaves a comment on your latest selfie saying, “OMG! You are literally a boss. Slay queen/fam/bae. We want to work with you, DM us if you’re interested!”

Drake says, "You're just 100 per cent fake."

Everyday Instagram accounts and micro-influencers are often the targets of brand collaboration scams—where a (usually fake) brand asks you to reach out to them promising representation or free product.

As a rule of thumb, brands will contact you if they want to collab. Also, be cautious if you’re asked to pay your way into a partnership—this could be a sign of swindling similar to multi-level marketing.

A woman points to her eyes and then points to the camera.

Keeping an eye out for these red flags can help you hold on to your money, but it won’t help you manage it. To learn how to be smart with your cents, tune in to Earning & Learning Live at noon Thursdays on Instagram! Your University of Guelph-Humber Student Engagement Coordinator Julia will be chatting with financial expert Chantel Chapman about all things moolah.

And, as always, they keep it student-focused—because you are our top priority. See you on Instagram!

Keep your pockets padded with these student-approved money-saving tips.

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