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Scams & Con Games|
It's not always easy to spot con artists. They're smart, extremely
persuasive, and aggressive. They invade your home by telephone and mail,
advertise in well-known newspapers and magazines, and come to your door.
Most people think they're too smart to fall for a scam. But con artists rob
all kinds of people - from investment counselors and doctors to teenagers and
elderly widows - of billions of dollars every year.
Just remember... if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You Can Protect Yourself!
|Never give a caller your credit card, phone card, Social Security, or bank
account number over the phone. It's illegal for telemarketers to ask for
these numbers to verify a prize or gift.
|Beware of 900 numbers. People who call 900 numbers 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. Such calls can end up costing $50
or more, but consumers rarely end up obtaining credit.
|Listen carefully to the name of a charity requesting money. Fraudulent
charities often use names that sound like a reputable, well-known
organization such as the American Cancer Association (instead of the
American Cancer Society).
|Ask for a financial report before you donate; a reputable charity will
always send you one.
|Investigate before you invest. Never make an investment with a stranger
over the phone. Beware of promises that include the terms "get rich
quick," or "a once in a lifetime opportunity."|
Be a Wise Consumer
|Don't buy health products or treatments that include: a promise for a
quick and dramatic cure, testimonials, imprecise and nonmedical language,
appeals to emotion instead of reason, or a single product that cures many
ills. Quackery can delay an ill person from getting timely treatment.
|Look closely at offers that come in the mail. Con artists often use
official-looking forms and bold graphics to lure victims. If you receive
items in the mail that you didn't order, you are under no obligation to pay
for them - throw them out, return them, or keep them.
|Be suspicious of ads that promise quick cash working from your home. After
you've paid for the supplies or a how-to book to get started, you often find
there's no market for the product and there's no way to get your money back.
|Beware of cheap home repair work that would otherwise be expensive,
regardless of the reason given. The con artist may just do part of the work,
use shoddy materials and untrained workers, or simply take your deposit and
|Use common sense in dealing with auto repairs. One mechanic convinced a
woman that she needed to have the winter air in tires replaced with summer
air! Get a written estimate, read it carefully, and never give the repair
shop a blank check to "fix everything."|
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Some Classic Cons
Although con artists come up with new scams as times change, some
classic scams never go out of style.
- The Bank Examiner
- Someone posing as a bank official or government agent asks for your help
(in person or via the telephone) to catch a dishonest teller. You are to
withdraw money from your account and turn it over to him or her so the
serial numbers can be checked or the money marked. You do, and never see
your money again.
- The Pigeon Drop
- A couple of strangers tell you they've found a large sum of money or other
valuables. They say they'll split their good fortune with you if everyone
involved will put up some "good faith" money. You turn over your
cash, and you never see your money or the strangers again.
- The Pyramid Scheme
- Someone offers you a chance to invest in a up-and-coming company with a
guaranteed high return. The idea is that you invest and ask others to do the
same. You get a share of each investment you recruit. They recruit others,
and so on. When the pyramid collapses (either the pool of new investors
dries up or the swindler is caught), everyone loses - except the person at
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Protect Yourself From
Your best protection is to just hang up the phone. If you think that is rude,
tell these callers politely that you are not interested, don't want to waste
their time, and please don't call back - and then hang up. If you find yourself
caught up in a sales pitch, remember the federal government's Telemarketing
|You have to be told the name of the company, the fact that it is a sales
call, and what's being sold. If a prize is being offered, you have to be
told immediately that there is no purchase necessary to win.
|If the caller says you've won a prize, you cannot be asked to pay anything
for it. You can't even be required to pay shipping charges. If it is a
sweepstakes, the caller must tell you how to enter without making a
|You cannot be asked to pay in advance for services such as cleansing your
credit record, finding you 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 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If you tell
telemarketers not to call again, they can't. If they do, they have broken
|If you're guaranteed a refund, the caller has to tell you all the
And remember, don't give telemarketers your credit card number, your bank
account number, Social Security number - or authorize bank drafts - ever.
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If Someone Rips You Off
|Report con games to the police, your city or state consumer protection
office, district attorney's office, or a consumer advocacy group.
|If you suspect fraud, call the National Fraud Information Center at
800-876-7060, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. To find out more, visit http://www.fraud.org/.
|Don't feel foolish. Reporting is vital. Very few frauds are reported,
which leaves the con artists free to rob other people of their money - and
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source: National Crime Prevention