Financial fraud is an unfortunate fact of life. Many fall prey, at a cost of billions of dollars each year.

Fraud schemes can be enticing and convincing, but they can also be avoided. Staying scam-free starts with recognizing the telltale signs of fraud, and vigilantly protecting your money and your identity.

These four tips can help you spot and avoid scams:

1. Know the warning signs 

They include promises of prizes or quick profits, guaranteed returns, risk-free investments, pressure tactics and limited-time offers.

2. Don’t pay in advance 

Do not send or wire money in order to receive a prize or pay fees associated with the promise of a larger sum of money. If you have to pay first, it’s likely not a prize or a legitimate offer.

3. Guard your identity 

Never respond to an email that asks you to reveal personal information, such as account numbers, your Social Security number, or passwords or PINs. Don’t give out personal information including credit and debit card numbers to unsolicited callers, even if the caller claims to be with a government organization or financial institution.

4. Check first 

Many scams and scammers are already well known. Do an internet search to see if there are warnings or other information about a situation or individual.