20 Ways to Avoid Being Swindled

Scammers use underhanded methods to trick you out of your money. However, if you know what to look out for, you can avoid being deceived.

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. Scrutinize deals that sound too good to be true because they usually are.

3. Don’t Be Fooled by Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

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

4. Look Out for “Credit Repair” and “Easy Credit” Operations

For a fee, some companies promise 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 “going-out-of-business” sales to get you into the store. Be sure the merchant is really offering you a bargain.

6. Beware of Social Security and Insurance Scams

If you receive a call, text, or email from someone claiming to be from Social Security or another government agency, be careful. Retired people, in particular, should be on alert for suspicious behavior.

What to Look Out For:

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

7. Be Alert for Shady Auto Repair Practices

Before traveling, hire a trustworthy mechanic to check your car and get several estimates for repairs. Try not to leave your car unattended in an out-of-town service station. A dishonest attendant could “rig” a mechanical problem, then cheat you for unnecessary repairs.

8. Resist the “Sympathy” Approach

Organized crews are trained to tell phony sob stories to convince you to sign up for something. Once you sign, they move on to the next town.

9. Watch Out for 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 request 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 doesn’t finish the job and then skips town. Evaluate the person using references and help from the police or local chamber of commerce. It’s best to deal with someone you know.

11. Look Out for “Free Vacation Offers”

Some free vacation offers 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 and never give money to anybody without checking carefully on them first. For example, ask to see written information before you buy anything.

13. Understand What “900” Numbers Provide

You may get a prerecorded message providing useless information or information you could get for free somewhere else, such as details 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

Beware of mail-order scams that do the following:

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

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 healthcare 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 & Vanity Gimmicks

Be on guard for products with exaggerated or misleading claims. No known product or service can:

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

19. Watch Out for “Bait-and-Switch” Ads

Some dishonest businesses 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 & Understand Everything Before You Sign

Before you sign anything, ask the following questions:

  • 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?

You should be on the lookout for legal “double talk” and take note that “as is” means no warranty. See a lawyer if you have any doubts or questions.