6 Tips to Stop Getting Ripped Off

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Skeptical confused woman is doubtful about a scam or deal
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Before sending money to some outfit for a product or service, ask some key questions. If you don’t, you might easily end up disappointed and ripped off.

Rather than finding this out too late, make sure you go over a few fundamentals before responding to any solicitation or ad. Steer clear of offers that do any of the following things.

Contain the word ‘millions’

Worker with a briefcase full of cash
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Nobody reputable would ever begin to imply you’re going to make millions of dollars. Why? Because it automatically renders the claim nonsensical.

If you knew a guaranteed way to make millions of dollars, which of the following would you do?

  1. Make millions of dollars.
  2. Go on TV or the internet and try to sell that information to other people.

People who say their idea can make millions of dollars are either idiots for not simply doing it themselves or they’re liars. And it’s not a good idea to send money to either.

Promise ‘anyone’ can do it

Man points to bicep
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Here’s a cut-and-paste from one ad, typical of many:

“Can you point and click? Type in a web address? Follow simple step-by-step instructions? Live in the U.S. or Canada? Then you too have what it takes!”

Stop for a moment and think about how ludicrous this promise is. Are we expected to believe that this idea is so simple that a 5-year-old can make hundreds of dollars in his or her spare time?

Again, the person hawking this promise is either a liar or an idiot.

Contain the word ‘secret’

Quiet student in a library
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When it comes to making money, there aren’t too many secrets. But if the offer uses the word “secret,” you’ll probably be expected to part with your money without any concrete idea of what it is you’re buying.

If someone came to your door today and offered to sell you a plain brown box for $34.95 with only the promise that you’d like what was inside, would you buy it? That’s exactly what you’re doing when you respond to an ad with the word “secret” in it.

Come with testimonials

Smarmy salesperson
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Totally ignore testimonials. Simply pretend they’re not there. Don’t read, watch or pay attention to them at all in any way.

Instead, evaluate the idea. Testimonials can easily be completely made up. Use your brain — not somebody else’s ravings — to evaluate an offer.

Offer unverified ‘facts’

Woman thinking about her phone plan
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As a journalist, I’m constantly encountering “facts” and “studies” from sources that have an obvious ax to grind. What do I do with stuff like this? If I can’t personally verify the information, I don’t include it in my story.

In other words, if it’s not verifiable, it didn’t happen. Period. And if it is verifiable, the people with the ax to grind should make it easy to verify. If they can’t or won’t, wouldn’t that suggest they’re probably lying? Of course it does.

Do not include contact information

Senior searching for something she lost
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If a business doesn’t offer a phone number, email and physical address, it could be located in Nigeria, for all you know.

At the minimum, such a lack of information suggests the business doesn’t want you to know where it is, which isn’t very reassuring if you’re sending it money. When dealing with any company that doesn’t provide a physical address, email them and ask for it. If the business doesn’t have an email — or does, but doesn’t respond to your inquiry — ask yourself why.

If it does respond, verify the address. If you can’t, ask yourself why.

For more tips on avoiding rip-offs, check out “10 Golden Rules to Avoid Getting Scammed.”

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