Ever been scammed? Bites, doesn’t it? Well, the Federal Trade Commission wants to help you bite back by keeping you up-to-date on all the latest rip-offs making their way to your phones, inboxes, TVs, and snail mail. It’s called Scam Alerts – What to know and do about scams in the news.
With the gift-giving holidays fast approaching, before warming up your credit card swiping muscles, consider stretching your critical thinking skills to make sure you don’t end up a victim of scumbag scammers working overtime to cheat you out of your money and your identity.
Click on Recommended Link FTC Scam Alerts! to the left, and you can check out all of the helpful tips and warnings found under their many categories of advice: Money & Credit, Homes & Mortgages, Health & Fitness, Jobs & Making Money, Privacy & Identity. There are videos, too, filled with helpful advice and instructions on how to file a complaint if you think you’ve been scammed.
Consumer traps are everywhere. Lurking in your mailbox is a warning that you’ve only a week left to call and have your credit cards consolidated under the special new program created by what looks like an official government program intended to ease consumer debt. Hopefully, you take the time to read the very fine print that reveals it’s actually just a cunningly worded ad for a private debt consolidation company. Or you get a call collecting money for victims of the latest flood, earthquake, hurricane or forest fire, feeling good about yourself thinking you’re helping those in need by donating to a heroic charity, when in truth only a tiny percentage (if any at all) actually goes to the cause while the rest funds a lavish lifestyle for the organizers. Or you’re merely doing what you think is routine business on what appears to be your bank website, your favorite online store, or some other trusted website you’ve been to time and again in the past, but which has actually been expertly re-created by identity theft cons tricking you into revealing your personal information. The booby traps, cyber deadfalls, and flip-flam charades are as ever present as a 13-year old on Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission wants to help protect you from these predators and that’s why they created the Scam Alerts website. Do you really need that “Extended Warranty?” Check out the Extended Warranties and Service Contracts checklist before laying out the extra cash for coverage you either don’t need or that merely duplicates the coverage you already get from the manufacturer’s warranty. The Resolving Consumer Problems page has important information that explains your rights and guides you on how to handle just about any type of purchase trouble you might find yourself getting into. They can even show you how to write an effective consumer complaint letter to get you started. There’s advice for handling just about every scam you can think of.
How about the growing number of “news” shows that are actually paid infomercials hawking a product? You’ve seen them, usually a half-hour to an hour long talk show format or even documentary style, tricking you into trusting what you’re seeing is credible when it’s all nothing but a highly sophisticated marketing charade. How about the “free trials” that only require shipping & handling? These trials often require that you are automatically billed at the end of the trial period and can make it extremely difficult for you to cancel. Meanwhile, they have your credit card information from when you paid the S&H, so you keep getting billed while you fight to get your free trial cancelled.
Did you know that there are even scam artists who target you just because you’ve been the victim of a scam? Once you’ve lost money thanks to some fraudulent scheme, your name could end up on a “sucker list” that other scammers buy to target you, offering to help you get back the money you lost, or prize or product you never received, for a “fee” in advance, which is against the law!
It’s bad enough when you’re scammed under ordinary circumstances, but worst of all are the cons that prey on people already suffering hard times. Foreclosure rescue scams where companies promise to help you save your home, but only if you give them money upfront or make you send your mortgage payments directly to them. Home repair cons after floods or other natural disasters by contractors who show up to collect your down payment, then disappear. Job hunters desperate and down to their last pennies fall victim to scams promising job placement, resume help, networking, at home work doing medical billing, envelope stuffing, and craft and assembly projects, that end up charging you more for starter supplies than you ever could earn. There is no counting the number of grant money or special government assistance offers that are designed to get your social security number and bank account information, but deliver nothing more than contact names and addresses of places you can apply to, information you could easily find for yourself with a simple Google search.
Even if you’ve already been hit and the harm has been done, the FTC can give you important tips on how to go about minimizing and cleaning up the damage.
It’s a desperate world, with thieves going to desperately clever measures to separate you from your money. Don’t let scammers trash your finances, play you for a fool, or steal your identity. Click on the Recommended Link on the left of the screen or go directly to http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.
Let the FTC help you to Sort Out the Scam Trash from the Real Deals!