How to Avoid a Scam and Wasting Your Money

by David Ning · 11 comments

How do you feel if you paid someone $10 for a parking spot on Black Friday, then see plenty of open spaces right in front of the entrance three minutes later as you walk towards the mall?

Scams are everywhere. Online and off, we are faced with the task of weeding out the genuine offers from all the ones that crooks publicize. With the holiday season and year end coming up, we are in the mood to say yes but don’t want to waste our money. Below are several ways to avoid a scam. Hey, someone’s got to kick some crook’s ass without physically wasting our energy.

  1. Never Decide on the Spot
    It could be an email, a speech or even a mailer, but many scams happen because victims are moved emotionally by the sales pitch. Always give yourself amble time to think about the offer so you can decide on your own schedule. If you are pressured in any way to make a decision immediately, just say no.
  2. Check Online
    The information available on the web is incredible. Just search for the description of the offer with the word “scam” or even the company name. Even if it’s a genuine offer, there will be lots of information to help you decide.
  3. Ask Tons of Questions
    Most of us can smell a scam from a mile away, but crooks sometimes dangle that carrot two miles away. Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of, and be specific. If some of the answers don’t make sense, then it’s best to avoid the offer all together.
  4. Know the Return Policy
    A reputable company won’t be afraid of returns. Ask about the return policy and the specific steps of what happens if you don’t like the product and want a refund.
  5. National Fraud Info Center (NFIC)
    NFIC at www.fraud.org or 1-800-876-7060 has a database full of information about telephone, mail, and online scams. Use it to see if you can find anything on the offer you were presented.
  6. Credit Card Payment
    Credit card payments are much easier to reverse, since you can ask the credit card company to charge the amount back to the vendor. However, be careful about giving away your credit card number, especially if it’s through email or over the telephone.
  7. Stop Telephone Scams
    You can register your phone number in the “Do Not Call Registry” (donotcall.gov). This way, no telemarketing calls that come through are going to be genuine.
  8. Never Give Out Too Much of Your Information
    Unless it’s clearly needed (like an address if you are signing up for a magazine subscription), be skeptical about giving any personal information on ANY offer. Request to give as little info as possible, and always ask why they need it.
  9. Too Good to be True
    You know what they say. When it’s too good to be true, it almost always is. Offers that make bold promises are seldom legitimate. There’s no free lunch, so don’t expect one.

With a little change in how you handle offers out there, you can pretty much stop all scams in its tracks. Follow these simple rules, and may all of you have a happy and scam-free holiday.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John DeFlumeri Jr November 30, 2009 at 6:50 am

The “too good to be true” advice is the one that’s most often ignored. That’s the most attractive carrot. Pretty good observation also, that the scammers start 2 miles or more away.

Thanks, John DeFlumeri Jr

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Craig November 30, 2009 at 9:27 am

Do your research beforehand. If you think sometimes may not be Kosher, go online and search around. You will find either pros or cons to help you make your decision.

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Daniel November 30, 2009 at 9:02 am

A few months ago, my girlfriend got scammed by some kids who were selling magazines to “pay for college.” The day it happened, I told her not to get her hopes up. She only wrote a check, thankfully she didn’t give her credit card information away. After a few months of not receiving anything, we called up to find out what happened, and they said the company that sold it to us is now closed and that they don’t sell People Magazine. They stole her money, but at least she is now more aware of possible scams.

Checking online is a big one for me. I do this a lot with people who call my phone. Just type in the numer and the word scam, and if something pops up, you usually know what you’re dealing with.

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MoneyNing November 30, 2009 at 10:55 am

Oh no. Hopefully, more people will read this and never pay for magazines from a kid.

I bet these companies just close the business once they’ve gathered enough complaints and then just open a new one doing the exact same thing.

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Credit Card Chaser November 30, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Uh oh. My little sisters volleyball team just convinced me to subscribe to ESPN the Magazine to support their team – maybe it’s a scam. Just kidding – I have already received the first issue and hopefully I can trust my little sister lol :)

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Ken87 December 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I can identify so much with the post.

I was clicking around the other night and noticed an advertisement for a FREE TV with purchase at their stores. I expected to see something pretty cheap, and was surprised to see it was a name brand. I have needed a TV for a while now so I decided to look at this further.

The fine print is what killed me though:

Please allow eight weeks delivery for merchandise redeemed online.

You DON’T ACTUALLY GET THE TV. You get a voucher for a TV — that you’ll get in 8 weeks and will at that point be a lot less expensive.

So, as I’m want to do, I came up with two options if you need new glasses and would love a new TV.

Option 1:
Pearle Vision

$350 for 1 pair of eyeglasses.
Your “Free” Camera Arrives in February (if you remember to redeem your voucher)
Total: $350 (Start taking pictures in February — in overpriced glasses.)

Option 2:
Online Retailer, for example http://www.eyeglasses.com (You can use the code UPS1DAY for free 1 day shipping.)

$120 for 1 pair of eyeglasses.
Order your Canon A470 from Amazon for $93 + $10 shipping (it arrives the day after tomorrow)
Total: $143 (Save over $200 and get the TV this week).

Don’t let these marketers trick you. We are too smart for them.

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Sandy November 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

Checking online is the first thing that I do nowadays to see if anything is a scam. If many people are complaining about something, chances are good that it’s not a product or service that you would want.

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Joseph23 November 30, 2009 at 10:50 am

Say no first but keep their marketing material for later. No one will turn away business, meaning that you always have more time than you think to decide. Give yourself amble time to think about the pros and cons before ever deciding.

My 2 cents.

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Jessica November 30, 2009 at 11:27 am

OMG I fell for that same scam that Daniel’s wife fell for. I subscribed to (out of all the selection), People Magazine and never received it. My neighbor fell for the same tactic and that kid must’ve made like $500 in an hour’s time.

Worst of all, the receipt says that there’s a charge if you stop the check too. So frustrating..

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LeanLifeCoach November 30, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Here are a couple other approaches.

1) Don’t buy

2) When (1) fails and you must have “it”, know that when you reach out to a company or store you are less likely to get ripped off. If “it” comes to your door (or via phone, email etc…)unexpectedly, the hair on the back of your neck should be standing straight up.

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FinanciallySmart December 4, 2009 at 5:37 am

Every day there is a new way of scamming and persons has to be very careful in their daily transactions. Those points you made are very valid one and should be place into practice.

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