13 Tips for Savvy Consumers (aka How Not to Get Scammed)
The Federal Government’s Consumer Action Handbook outlines 13 ways to keep from getting scammed:
- A deal that sounds too good to be true usually is! Be wary of promises to fix your credit problems, low-interest credit cards, deals that let you skip credit card payments, business/job opportunities, risk-free investments, and free travel.
- Extended warranties and service contracts are rarely worth what you pay for them.
- Say no to credit insurance offers. Often offered with credit cards, car loans and home mortgages, it is almost always better to purchase regular property, life or disability insurance.
- There is no universal three-day cooling-off period. Don’t be misled into thinking that you have an automatic three days to cancel a purchase. Only a few types of contracts give you a right to cancel.
- Don’t share personal information with someone you don’t trust.
- Beware of payday and tax refund loans. Interest rates on these loans are usually excessive. Even a cash advance on a credit card could be a better option.
- Not all plastic cards offer the same protections. Your liability for the unauthorized use of a gift card and debit/ATM card may be much higher than the $50 maximum on your credit card.
- Real estate agents represent the seller – not the buyer. When buying, consider hiring an agent or lawyer who represents you.
- Home improvement and auto repairs are the subject of frequent complaints Getting a second opinion can help prevent costly mistakes and enable you to make better decisions.
- Think twice before you rent-to-own. Interest rates on rent-to-own purchases can be very high. If you miss a payment, you could end up with nothing. Consider buying second-hand at a thrift shop or through ads in your local newspaper.
- Don’t buy under stress. Avoid making big-ticket purchases during times of duress (e.g. coping with a death or debt).
- Be cautious of Buy Here, Pay Here lots. If you decide to buy a car from a used car lot, be sure to read all of the papers before you sign. Don’t sign contracts that allow the dealership to change the finance rate AFTER you leave the lot.
- Work-at-home ads usually don’t pay off. Be especially wary of ads that promise huge annual salaries; they often require expensive upfront fees with no guarantee. You risk losing your money and wasting a lot of time and energy.