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                  AVOIDING FRAUD & SCAMS         

Con-artists are not always easy to spot. Smart, extremely persuasive, and aggressive, they invade your home through the telephone and the mail, advertise in reputable newspapers and magazines, and come to your door. Most people think they're too smart to fall for a scam. But con artists rob all kinds of people from investment counselors and doctors to teenagers and elderly widows of billions every year. It's up to you to say no. Use common sense and learn about old and new scams.

QUICK TIPS

Don't let greed overcome your common sense.

Be wary of ... High-pressure sales; Demands for ‘cash only'; Pressure for quick decisions; Secret deals; No-Risk, high-yield investments.

Get a second opinion from someone you trust.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

DIALING FOR YOUR DOLLARS

If a caller asks for your credit card number to verify a free vacation or other gift, hang up. Your number may be used to charge purchases by phone.

Make sure you know the charges before calling a 900 number. Most 800 numbers are free 900 numbers aren't.

Be very suspicious if you receive a collect call from someone who says he's a law-enforcement officer with emergency information about a family member, requesting your phone card number to charge the call. Other variations of this scam include a telephone company investigator checking a system failure, or an FCC official investigating a complaint.

Ask for a financial reports if a caller requests a charitable donation. Reputable charities will always send this information if you ask.

Never make an investment with a stranger over the phone.

Ask yourself these questions before you decide to enter a sweepstakes or mail your money in response to a telemarketing offer:

Do I have to pay to receive the "prize" or enter a sweepstakes? You should never have to pay to receive a prize or enter a sweepstakes contest. If you do, it's illegal.

Am I a "guaranteed" winner or told "no risk is involved?" If you're told you're a guaranteed prize winner or that there's no risk involved, be skeptical.

Is the lottery offer from a foreign country? Any lottery that involves a foreign country and is conducted through the mail is illegal.

Charity or sweepstakes--or both? "By returning your entry form, you could be the winner of $20,000 cash!" These are charity sweepstakes. Legitimate charities don't ask for donations in conjunction with a contest. The problem is that many phony charities use names that sound or look like respected organizations.

Do I have to give any personal or financial information? Don't give your financial information--Social Security number, credit card, or bank account numbers--to callers you don't know. If it's a reputable group, this information won't be requested.

Am I pressured into responding right away? Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision. Get all information in writing before you agree to enter a contest, make a purchase, or give a donation.