Sure, we all enjoyed watching “The Sting” and felt more than a little respect and admiration for the con artists played by Newman and Redford. And, after all, they were only targeting mean old Robert Shaw, so it was perfectly legitimate for us to root for them. In the real world, however, the type of guys played by Newman and Redford do not have twinkles in their eyes and they certainly aren’t as handsome, though they may well be as affable. Con artists still exist in America and they make no bones about only targeting bigger con artists who have ripped them off. Real-life con artists are more than willing to take money from a grandmother living on Medicaid and welfare. The scams available to con artists are greater than ever before. It behooves you to understand how some of these cons operate and what you can do to avoid becoming another victim.
Everybody loves winning a prize, even if the prize isn’t worth the amount of money you spend winning it at a fair booth. When you get the opportunity to win a prize for free, it’s even better. The fake prize scam operates with the arrival of a letter that seems to be quite official and legitimate that announces that you have won some kind of prize. Collection of the prize requires only that you attend an informational seminar. The seminar turns out to be a sales presentation, usually for some kind of vacation community. Your attendance will result in a prize, but that prize may be only a bare simulation of what it appeared to be in the original letter. For instance, the ring that is extended as the carrot may turn out to be a ring that is miniscule in comparison to the jewelry offered up as the prize in the original mailing. Even worse, you may be required to pay shipping and handling costs in order to receive the “free” prize.
Bait and Switch
The bait and switch is a tried and true scam that has proven successful throughout the entire existence of free enterprise capitalism. The way it works is through an advertisement for a product to be sold at a bargain basement price. Thrilled by the prospect of owning a high quality piece of merchandise that you paid as little as one-third the regular retail price for, you head out to the store. When you get there, it turns out that the product isn’t quite as high in quality as the advertisement made it seem. The salesperson admits that others have made the same observation and complaint and offers a novel way of addressing your concern: the recommendation that you consider buying a more expensive model of the product instead for what is still a bargain price below the suggested manufacturer’s retail price. If you opt for this deal, you walk out the store having spend two or three times what you arrived there to spend. The only way to avoid becoming a victim of this con job is to immediately leave the store. Follow up this process by contacting the Better Business Bureau and reporting the bait and switch scam. It is also recommended that you list this particular business on your own private checklist of retailers that you vow never to do business with again.
This scam involves a phone call that offers up a free vacation as long as you are willing to pay for air fare. The fare is going to turn out to be much greater than it needs to be and the luxury hotel that you get to stay at for free as part of the deal turns out to be a second- or third-rate resort. The result is a trip that would have cost you probably less than half what you paid for the air fare alone if you’d devised it on your own behalf. The best way to avoid this common scam is to instantly avoid buying into the promise of a free vacation. The highly successful travel scam is the very definition of the adage that some things are just too good to be true.
Credit Card Scam
You may be noticing a common thread running through these common con jobs: the reception of a phone call from out of the blue. The phone call associated with the credit card scam lures you with the promise of a credit to your credit card that could range anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars. All that is needed to collect your credit is to verification of your credit card number. As you wait to see the credit show up on your credit card statement, the reality of the scam is taking place without your awareness. It is only when you finally receive your statement and realize that not only has your card not been credited, but there are a number of charges for which you cannot account on the statement. You can avoid this and any other type of credit card scam by refusing to hand out your credit card information to anyone over the phone unless you have initiated contact.
An especially popular con job these days is the sweepstakes scam. This one begins with the arrival in the mail of a letter informing you that have won a prize in some kind of sweepstakes. Even though you don’t remember ever entering this particular sweepstakes, you are lured into the scam courtesy of the mailing information that looks every bit as official as those Publisher’s House sweepstakes mailings that you get. The key to success with the sweepstakes scam is that the scammer doesn’t have to target just one person and therefore you aren’t notified as the winner of the million dollars, but rather a smaller consolation prize. This prize is generally in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars that can only be used when applied to buying products associated with the sweepstakes. The scammer is counting on getting enough people to fall for it that he wins big by virtue of volume. As for you, you think it’s legitimate because if it wasn’t, you’d be notified as the winner of a much bigger prize. The con job related to the sweepstakes scam is in the form of your having to pay for products that aren’t worth anywhere near what you pay for them. And what you pay for them will actually be more than the consolation prize you allegedly won. The point to keep in mind is that in a legitimate sweepstakes you will never, ever, never be asked to pay any amount of money for any reason to collect your prize. And you also keep in mind that you can never, ever, never win any sweepstakes that you never actually entered in the first place.