Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Red Flags of Scams

While schemes and scams take infinite forms, there are a few basic principles underlying all of them. Knowing the common danger signals and ways to defend yourself can save you time and money.

Be alert for these red flags:

-- A deal that sounds much better than any being advertised by firms you know to be legitimate (offers that are "too good to be true");

-- A sales promoter who is not based locally and provides no telephone number and uses a P.O. Box or mail drop rather than a full street address;

-- A name and/or logo that closely mimics a well-known respected brand or business;
-- Sales literature that uses pressure words, such as "urgent" or "final deadline;"

-- Undue pressure, threats or harassment either in writing, in e-mail, during a phone call or in personal contact;

-- An immediate request or demand for a check, money order or cash to be picked up by a courier or to be sent to a mail drop or P.O. Box;

-- Vague answers or none at all to key questions you ask about the offer;

-- Insistence that you finalize a deal orally without a written contract or other documentation in writing;

-- A demand for personal information, such as your Social Security number or credit-card number.

Be your own best protector. Even with all the consumer protection agencies and laws on the books, you must protect yourself and investigate before you invest. There is no stronger remedy for fraud than a consumer who refuses to be conned. The BBB recommends the following tips:

-- Take your time and read thoroughly before you sign. Fully understand any contract and make sure it matches what the salesperson told you.

-- If asked to purchase goods sight unseen, compare the prices and warranties with those offered by local stores. You run a risk of getting inferior merchandise when you order products from unfamiliar businesses without being able to inspect them first.

-- Be firm in the face of pressure. Say "no" and just hang up the phone. Thieves are stealing more than money -- they're stealing people's hopes and dreams and their security.

-- Protect your privacy. Never provide personal information unless you know who's requesting it, why and how it will be used.

-- Don't believe it just because you saw it on the Internet. Obtain the company's physical address and phone number and check the company out with the BBB.

Please visit www.sd.bbb.org for additional tips, warnings, and scam alerts.

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