Tips for Seniors

How To Tell If It Is A Scam

It's sometimes hard to tell if a sales pitch is legitimate or fraudulent. You can't judge it by the tone of someone's voice, or how friendly or sincere the person seems. Good salespeople are convincing, and so are crooks. But it's probably a scam if:
  • You get a call or postcard from someone telling you you've won a prize and asking for payment to buy something, for processing or administrative fees, for customs, for taxes, or any other reason. Legitimate sweepstakes or prize offers don't ask for payment because it's illegal.
  • The person says you have to take the offer immediately or you'll miss the opportunity. Legitimate companies don't pressure people to act without time to look into the deal.
  • The caller refuses to send you written information before you commit to anything. Legitimate companies are always glad to send information about what they're offering.
  • The caller claims that you can make huge profits in an investment with no risk. All investments are risky and legitimate companies must tell consumers about the possible risks involved.
  • The caller claims that you can make huge profits through a franchise or other business opportunity with little or no effort. All business ventures require knowledge and effort on the part of buyers, and no legitimate companies would guaranty profits.
  • The caller is asking for a donation but won't tell you exactly how the money will be used and how you can verify the charity and what it does. Legitimate charities are willing to say what percentage of contributions is used for services and how much goes to overhead and fundraising. They are also willing to tell consumers who they can check with to confirm that they are legitimate.
  • The caller insists that you send your payment by a private courier or wire money. Legitimate companies don't try to keep people from checking the deal out and changing their minds, or try to evade the postal authorities, by demanding immediate payment by courier or wire.
  • The company asks for cash. Legitimate companies don't ask for cash, but con artists do because they often have trouble getting merchant approval from the credit card companies, and they also want to be hard to trace.
  • The caller asks for your social security number. Legitimate companies don't ask for that unless you are applying for credit and they need to check your credit report.
  • The caller asks for your credit card number, bank account number, or other financial information when you aren't buying anything or paying with those accounts. Legitimate companies only ask for financial information to bill you or debit your account for purchases you've agreed to make.
  • The company calls you relentlessly or after you've asked not to be called anymore. Legitimate companies will take "no" for an answer and will take you off their calling lists if you ask. Con artists will keep on calling to wear you down or get more money from you.
  • The company offers to get you a loan, or credit, or a credit card, or to "repair" your bad credit if you pay an up-front fee. Legitimate lenders and credit card issuers do not demand payment in advance, and no one can get bad information removed from a credit file if it is accurate.
  • The company offers to get back money that you have lost to another fraudulent scheme if you pay an up-front fee. Law enforcement agencies don't ask for payment to try to help consumers get their money back, and it's illegal for a company to ask for advance payment for such services.
Remember, giving money to a fraudulent telemarketer usually means losing it forever. Don't let a criminal break into your home through your telephone line!

This article was provided courtesy of the National Fraud Information Center.

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