Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat: Financial Scams

Happy (almost) Halloween! Scam artists know how to manipulate language or offer "perks" to lure even the wisest saver into their financial scams. So how do you know if what their offering is a trick or a treat? Compare what they're saying to the list of phrases in our "Too Good to be True" Checklist!

“Too Good to be True” Checklist:

Phrases and Promises that Probably Mean “It’s Too Good to Be True”

Here’s a check list of phrases that scam artists use and offers they make. Next time you hear one of these you can just say, “Sorry, I know it’s too good to be true.”

  • “We’ll give you a free lunch and teach you how to invest your money.”

Don’t let a free lunch and some well-dressed, well-spoken sales persons pressure you. Don’t purchase financial products that you don’t understand or need.

  • “I’m a ‘Senior Certified Financial Planner’ and I have some wonderful investment products for a person just your age.”

Watch out for people using educational titles to convince you imply that they have been “certified” as experts in financial matters affecting seniors. There is no such designation.

  • “You’ve just won $10,000. If you give me your bank account number, we can put in right in the bank for you.” Never give out any account numbers to anyone over the phone or to anyone you don’t know.
  • “We can erase your bad credit score.” You can take steps to pay down your debt and get your finances back under control, but it will not be easy and it won’t be accomplished in a day. So, don’t pay someone who says that it can. They are probably trying to sell you a high interest loan.
  • “The IRS has made an error in your taxes and will refund the money if you fill in your Social Security number on the attached form.” This request may come in an official-looking envelope, but think about it, obviously the IRS already knows your Social Security number. Don’t fall for this one.

Be Suspicious of Urgent Demands:

  • “You must decide right now.”
  • “Just sign here.”
  • “All you have to do is give me your credit card number to confirm.”
  • “Give me your Social Security number and we will correct the error.”
  • “You will regret it if you don’t accept this offer right now.”
  • “Give me the cash up front.”

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