Most Common Financial Scams (continued)
Free anti-virus software -- More than 10,000 websites operated by thieves exist at any given time offering free, downloadable software and anti-virus programs. If you download anything from them, they will likely take over your computer and might steal your identity. They could silently download malware that records your every keystroke, so that they can later on log in to your banking account and steal all of your money. Another version of this scam involves a thief calling people and claiming to be an employee with Microsoft or Dell and saying "we have detected a virus on your computer" and will try to charge the victim $100 to remove it. Or, the thieves might try to sell you a bogus software program referred to as ransomware that will detect anything suspicious on your computer, but it is actually rigged to send you pop up messages from time to time indicating that another virus has been found and you must pay again to have it removed. If you do not have an anti-virus program already installed, you can download free anti-virus software at avira.com right now and this will give you some protection from thieves.
Craig's List Scams -- The top scams on Craig's List in recent years have been TVs, cell phones, and laptops and all these scams cost consumers about $550 million each year. Law enforcement agencies estimate that as much as fifty percent of everything that appears on Craig's List could be a scam. No matter what people advertise on Craig's list, they are contacted by scammers all over the world. The basic scam is to send a check for goods or services purchased. The check is in an amount for more than the good or service costs and the thief asks the victim to deposit the check, and send the excess back to the thief. The check will bounce and the victim will be left responsible for the total amount of the check. One media outlet reported that a lady who advertised offering piano lessons was contacted by a man who wanted to send her a check for more than the cost of the piano lessons and asked her to send him back a check for the difference! Even the people who operate the Craig's list website warn visitors not to wire money to anyone or accept a check, certified check or money order as payment because it is likely fraudulent and make purchases in person.
Consumers Digest -- Everyone has heard of Consumer Reports magazine, right? They are a nonprofit, legitimate organization that does not accept advertising or donations from the companies whom they evaluate and rate. An organization with a similar name, Consumers Digest, DOES take money from corporations for its endorsements. In fact, it charges about $35,000 to endorse products. Don't confuse an endorsement from Consumers Digest with an endorsement from Consumer Reports. An endorsement from Consumers Digest is a joke.
The Invention Scam -- Companies advertise on TV, the Internet and on the radio promising that for a fee they will help you develop and market your invention. They make it sound like it is very possible that they can help you make millions from your investment, but the small print at the bottom of the ad often says that it is highly unlikely that your invention will ever come to fruition. Some invention companies charge as much as $10,000 for their assistance and you will have to sign a contract wherein you acknowledge that it is highly unlikely your invention will be purchased by a company and manufactured, but they get to keep your $10,000 anyway.
Solar Panel Scam -- Always looking to lower their utility bills, many homeowners are being told by dishonest home improvement companies that they can save significantly (more than $1000) on their utility bills by installing solar panels. Actually, this is true, you can save lots on your electricity bill with solar panels, but they are very expensive to install and rebates and tax incentives don’t come close to recouping the cost of installation. What homeowners are not told by scammers is that it can take up to 40 years to recoup the cost of paying for those solar panels, and if you live in an area that is regularly overcast or cloudy, the panels won't work that well. Not that these companies will actually do the work -- some of them are scammers who will just take your deposit and skip town. There is a way to benefit from solar panels, but it involves leasing the solar panels from a a solar provider and paying a monthly fee for power. There is also a maintenance and installation fee that can be as much as $3,000.
Similar scams involve cleaning your duct work, repairing your roof, repaving your driveway, etc. Any company you hire to install solar panels should be licensed and specialize in installing solar panels. You should always check their rating with the Better Business Bureau and never give them more than ten percent of the estimate as a down payment.