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20 Ways to Avoid Being Swindled


1. WATCH OUT FOR CREDIT CARD SCAMS

Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you’ve made the call to a reputable business. Retain all carbons and charge slips when shopping, eating out, etc. Check monthly statements for unauthorized charges.

2. BEWARE OF COUNTERFEIT MERCHANDISE

Crooks fool thousands of consumers each year by illegally placing trusted brand names on inferior products. Look into deals that sound to good to be true–they usually are.

3. DON’T BE FOOLED BY GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEMES

These misleading “opportunities” promise quick profits and easy formulas for success. They may involve offers of jobs, profit ideas, business plans, etc.–and probably involve purchases of some sort.

4. LOOK OUT FOR “CREDIT REPAIR”AND “EASY CREDIT” OPERATIONS

They promise — for a fee — to fix a poor credit rating, or help you get credit without a credit check. In truth, they can’t do anything you can’t do yourself by contacting a credit bureau or the appropriate banks.

5. WATCH “GOING-OUT-OF-BUSINESS” SALES CAREFULLY

Some businesses have fake “selling out” sales just to get you into the store. Be sure the merchant is really offering you a bargain.

6. BEWARE OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND INSURANCE SCAMS

Retired people in particular should guard against companies peddling:

  • Useless items, such as laminated Social Security cards
  • Services the Social Security Administration provides for free
  • Special veteran’s insurance appearing to be offered by the U.S. government

7. BE ALERT FOR SHADY AUTO REPAIR PRACTICES

Have your car checked by a trustworthy mechanic before you travel. Get several estimates for any repairs. Try not to leave your car unattended in an out-of-town service station. For example, a dishonest attendant could “rig” a mechanical problem, then cheat you for unnecessary repairs.

8. RESIST THE “SYMPATHY” APPROACH

It’s often a “line” to get you to sign up for something. Organized crews are trained to work neighborhoods telling phony sob stories. Once you sign, they move on to the next town.

9. FUNERAL CHASERS

Swindlers sometimes read obituary notices and send phony bills to bereaved families. They’re told they must finish paying off an item ordered by the deceased relative. Don’t be fooled! Contact the company and ask to see a copy of a receipt or purchase agreement.

10. DON’T FALL FOR HOME REPAIR SWINDLES

Don’t let yourself be swindled by a contractor who overcharges you or who doesn’t finish the job–then skips town. Check the person out with references and the Police or Chamber Of Commerce. It’s best to deal with someone you know.

11. LOOK OUT FOR “FREE VACATION OFFERS”

Some are actually ploys to lure people into joining costly travel clubs, or entering expensive time-share arrangements. Beware of winning free vacations for contests you never entered. “Free” may mean free lodging, but you end up paying inflated prices for travel, food, etc.

12. DON’T BE A VICTIM OF TELE-FRAUD

Anyone with a telephone is a target for shady dealers trying to peddle worthless commodities, securities and tax shelters. Use common sense–never give money to anybody without checking carefully on them first. For example, ask to see written information before you buy.

13. UNDERSTAND WHAT “900” NUMBERS PROVIDE

In some cases you may get a prerecorded message providing useless information, or information you could get for free somewhere else (for example, detail about Social Security benefits). Before you call, make sure you need the information. And, find out how much it will cost! NOTE: Don’t confuse “900” numbers, which often charge you by the minute, with “800” numbers, which are free with a few exceptions. Be wary if an organization wants to charge you for an “800” call.

14. DON’T BE FOOLED BY “EARN-MONEY-AT-HOME” SCAMS

Most work-at-home schemes require you to buy something in order to earn. Later, you find there is no market for what you produce, or your efforts are “not up to standards.”

15. PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST MAIL FRAUD

For example, beware of mail-order scams that:

  • Promise medical care, lab tests, etc., by mail
  • Offer a chance for high earnings in little time
  • Claim you’re one of a select few who qualify for an offer
  • Design mailings that look like official government business

Mail fraud is a federal crime. Contact the Postal Inspector if you think you’ve been a victim.

16. DON’T RISK YOUR HEALTH ON “MIRACLE CURES”

See your health-care provider about health concerns. Don’t take chances on expensive, quack medicines, or mail-order remedies.

17. CHOOSE CHARITIES CAREFULLY

Make sure you know exactly who will get your money and how it will be used. Fast-buck artists won’t think twice about cashing in on your generosity. Check your library for a report book on charities published by the Secretary of State’s office.

18. BEWARE OF FITNESS FRAUDS AND VANITY GIMMICKS

There’s no known product or service that can:

  • Make you taller
  • Make you younger
  • Improve sexual relations
  • Reduce your weight by using creams, wraps, belts, girdles, vibrators, massages or sweat baths

19. WATCH OUT FOR “BAIT-AND-SWITCH” ADS

The idea is to advertise an item at an unusually low price. However, once you’re in the store the item is suddenly sold out. The salesperson then tries to sell you a more expensive model that is well-stocked.

20. READ AND UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU SIGN

  • Are all promises in writing?
  • Is the guarantee specific?
  • Are all blank spaces filled in?
  • Are all charges itemized?
  • Have you read the small print?
  • Do you get a copy?

Be on the lookout for legal “double talk.” Know that “as is” means no warranty. See a lawyer if you have any doubts or questions.

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