Con artists are not easy to spot. They’re smart, persuasive & aggressive. They reach you by phone, mail, & advertise through newspapers & magazines. Con artists scam all kinds of people, from investment counselors & doctors to teenagers & the elderly. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.
You can protect yourself
- Never give a caller your credit card, phone card, social security number or bank account over the phone. It's illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers to verify a prize.
- Beware of 900 numbers. People who call a 900 number to request instant credit often end up with a booklet on how to establish credit, or a list of banks offering low interest credit cards. This can end up costing you money, but you rarely end up obtaining credit.
- Listen carefully to the name of a charity requesting money. Fraudulent charities use names that sound reputable. American Cancer "Association" instead of "Society".
- Ask for a financial report before you donate; a reputable charity will send one to you.
- Investigate before you invest. Never make an investment to a stranger over the phone. Beware of promises to "get rich quick", or say "once in a lifetime opportunity".
- Don’t buy health products or treatments that include a promise for quick & dramatic cures, testimonials, imprecise & nonmedical language, appeals to emotion instead of reason, or a single product that cures many ills. Quacks can delay real treatment.
- Look closely at offers that come in the mail. Con artists use official looking forms to lure victims. If you receive items in the mail that you didn’t order, you are under no obligation to pay for them.
- Be suspicious of ads that promise quick cash working from your home. After you’ve paid for supplies, you’ll often find that there is no market for the product, and you cannot get your money back.
- Beware of cheap home repair work that would normally be expensive. The con artist may just do some of the work, use shoddy supplies & untrained workers, or may simply take your deposit and never return.
- Use common sense when dealing with auto repairs. Get a written estimate and read it carefully. Never give a repair shop a blank check to repair everything.
Some classic cons
Someone posing as a bank official of government agent asks for help to catch a dishonest teller. You are asked to withdraw money from your account & turn it over to him/her so the serial number can be checked, or the money marked. You will never see your money again.
A couple of strangers tell you they’ve found a large sum of money or valuables. They say they’ll split their good fortune if everyone involved puts of some good faith money. You turn over the cash and you never see your money again.
Someone asks you to invest in an up & coming company with a guaranteed high return. The idea is that you invest & ask others to do the same. You get a share of each investment you recruit. They recruit others & so on. When the PYRAMID collapses, either the pool of investors dries up or the swindler is caught, everyone loses except the one at the top.
Protect yourself from telemarketing fraud
Your best protection is to hang up the phone. If this sounds rude, politely tell the caller that you are not interested, you don’t want to waste their time, and hang up. If you’re caught in a sales pitch, remember the federal government’s Telemarketing Sales Rule:
- You must be told the name of the company, that it is a sales call, and what’s being sold. If a prize is being offered, you must be told immediately that there is no purchase necessary to win.
- If the caller says you won a prize, you cannot be asked to pay anything for it. You can’t even be required to pay for shipping. If it’s a sweepstakes, the caller must tell you how to enter without making a purchase.
- You cannot be asked to pay in advance for services such as cleansing your credit record, finding a loan, acquiring a prize they say you’ve won. You pay for services only if they’re actually delivered.
- You shouldn’t be called before 8:00AM or after 9:00PM. If you tell telemarketers not to call again, they can’t. If they do, they have broken the law.
- If you’re guaranteed a refund, the caller must tell you all the limitations.
If someone rips you off
- Report con games to the Police, the Consumer Protection Office, District Attorney’s Office & Consumer Advocacy Group.
- If you suspect fraud call the National Fraud Information Center - 1-800-876-7060, 9:00AM to 5:30PM, - internet http://www.fraud.org/
- Do not feel foolish. Reporting is vital. Very few frauds are reported which leaves con artists free to rob other people of their money and their trust.