The 10 golden rules of scam prevention
Follow these 10 rules, or even just three or four of them, to insulate yourself from con artists.
If you've ever fallen victim to a scam -- and who hasn't -- you'd probably like to avoid repeating the experience. Well, follow these 10 golden rules of scam prevention -- or even just three or four of them -- and you likely won't be foolishly parted from your money again.
1. Testimonials are a testament only to how gullible people are. There's only one kind of testimonial worth believing -- the kind that comes from people you both personally know and totally trust. Testimonials from strangers you see on TV or online may very well be lies. I've met more than one infomercial actor whose told me they simply read a script without ever seeing the product. So the next time you see an ad, website or infomercial, ignore all testimonials.
Don't believe your eyes. Anyone willing to rip you off is willing to create fake checks, letters or anything else. They can easily do so by using programs like Photoshop. And even if the earnings you see are real, that has no bearing whatsoever on what you'll earn doing the same thing.
I once attended a multi-level marketing meeting where a speaker took the stage and held up a check for some ungodly amount of money. He claimed that it was one month's earnings that came entirely from sales made by those in his downline. After the meeting, I approached the speaker and asked exactly how many people were in his downline. A few calculations revealed that in order for everyone in his audience to make the same monthly income, they'd collectively have to recruit more people than there were on the planet.
I was a stockbroker for 10 years and have been involved with sales of one kind or another for nearly 30. Trust me. A salesman's job is to sell "sizzle." It's the fine print's job to offer the "steak." There's a reason that fine print is there: If you don't understand it, find someone who does.
The only people who can wisely make snap decisions regarding a purchase are those who are experts at what they're buying. You're an expert at buying milk, jeans or any number of consumer goods. But if you're not an expert at what's being sold, slow down. From buying a house to getting married, the time spent on a decision should directly correlate to its potential ramifications.
7. Before listening to strangers, listen to strangers. This is related to the rule just above, but instead of searching for the pitch you're getting, add the words "review" and "rip-off." There are sites that specialize in consumer reviews, from Scam.com to the Ripoff Report to the BBB. With all this information available, it's amazing people still blindly enter into transactions where they could easily have known better.
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- OnGuard online: Stop. Think. Click.
Here's a recent example from The Wall Street Journal:
Many of the most popular applications, or "apps," on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information -- in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names -- to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies.
And that's a well-known and respected site. One can only imagine what smaller and lesser-known sites might be doing with your information.
As I said, you don't have to follow all the above rules to insulate yourself from con artists. Just follow a few. For example, the next time you watch an infomercial, imagine it without the money-back guarantees and the testimonials. Would you still buy what they're selling? Not likely. The next time you see some online offer to make money at home, do a search and see what comes up -- and then see if you're still interested.
Bottom line? Avoiding being scammed is simple, but it's not easy. It's simple, because simple logic (see Rule No. 10) reveals most scams. But it's not easy, because humans are preprogrammed to trust people and to hope for the best. Deprogramming takes time. But now's as good a time as any to start the process, so use the rules above and make 2011 the year you become scam-proof.
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