January 3, 2012, (San Diego) -- The San Diego Better Business Bureau (BBB), San Diego’s largest county-wide business membership organization, has issued a list of red flags to help consumers make 2012 a scam-free year.
“There is no stronger remedy for fraud that an educated consumer who refuses to be conned,” said Sheryl Bilbrey, San Diego BBB president/CEO. “Rough economic times mean that consumer scams and rip-offs are at an all-time high as unscrupulous individuals and companies will roll-out every trick in the book.
“The fact is, anyone can be scammed. One trusting moment, one bad decision or just bad luck and those hard-earned dollars can be gone. Thieves with no consciences are eager to steal more than just your money, they’re stealing people's hopes and dreams and their security. You do not need to be victim.”
To be a savvy consumer and your own best protector, here is the BBB’s list of 10 common red flag danger signals for scams:
- 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.
Providing the largest free service of its kind to local consumers, the San Diego BBB, supported by more than 6,300 accredited businesses and charities, promotes business ethics through voluntary self‑regulation, consumer and business education, and helps consumers with free pre‑purchase information and consumer protection advice, including reliability reports on more than 101,000 local companies. Before buying decisions are made, consumers are encouraged to phone the BBB's free 24‑hour Consumer Helpline at (858) 496‑2131 or (800) 600‑7050, or visit the website at www.bbb.org, to obtain free information and a list of BBB accredited businesses in a particular type of industry.