The San Diego Better Business Bureau (BBB), San Diego’s largest county-wide business membership organization, has issued the following list of “red flags” danger signals for scams to help consumers make 2012 a “scam-free” year:
— Read the fine print before you sign any agreement, fully understand it and make sure it matches what the salesperson told you. Get any promises in writing. Beware of any offer that sounds too good to be true, because it usually isn’t true.
— Take your time and investigate before you invest. Avoid easy-money schemes. Be wary if you hear “buy now or forever lose your opportunity to profit.”
— Scammers will take advantage of job hunters. Beware of any job offer, including work-at-home schemes or business “opportunities,” that offers big money for little work and no experience.
— Beware of high-pressure sales pitches that are “good only today.” Be firm in the face of pressure, say “no” and walk away.
— Prevent identity theft by protecting your personal information, including Social Security and credit-card numbers. Don’t share private information with strangers over the phone or e-mail.
— Don’t believe the hype about a “guaranteed free prize.” If the sweepstakes promoter demands advance fees to cover shipping or to pre-pay taxes, or asks you to call a 900 number, then it won’t be free.
— Beware of “free” trial offers. After signing up for a “free” trial, you could end up with monthly charges that are hard to stop.
– Avoid upfront fees, especially for advance-fee loans or debt relief to become free of debt (more likely, you’ll end up deeper in debt).
— Scams have found a comfy home on the Internet, so don’t believe it just because you read it on a website. Obtain a company’s physical address and phone number and verify a business’ reliability with the BBB.
— Ask questions before giving money to charities. Give, but give wisely. Beware of appeals that bring tears to the eyes but tell you little about how they plan to solve the problem they describe so well. Also, be cautious with sound-alike organizations using names that sound similar to legitimate groups.
Rick Griffin Marketing Communications is a full-service public relations, advertising and marketing firm.