Most Common Financial Scams (continued)

Bargain Computers

More and more websites purporting to sell computers at deep discounts are popping up.  These scammers' advertisements might read something like this: "Save $80 on a new HP computer now".  Unfortunately though, most of these deep discounts are bogus.  A little research would show that the computer actually sells for more than $100 less than the sale price at legitimate websites.  So, before you buy, do your research.  Even legitimate websites often claim that the "list price" is X amount, when the real list price is much lower.  Check out the price of a computer at many websites, including the original manufacturer's website, where you might find it priced significantly cheaper than it is at bogus discount computer websites.

Prepayment Scams

We've all heard of people paying for home improvement projects upfront only to discover that the contractor ran off with their money or didn't do the job he promised.  But other types of businesses can also scam you in this way, including doctors, dentists, attorneys, etc.  Always avoid prepaying for services whenever you can and always try to pay only a partial payment upfront.  Use a credit card so that you can dispute any charges if the service isn't performed satisfactorily. Get everything in writing and investigate the company as thoroughly as you can before handing over anything.

Flood Damaged Cars

Many areas of the United States are flooded every year from hurricanes and other weather disasters.  What happens to all these cars floating down the street?  Insurance companies usually total them out and are supposed to stamp the car title with a "salvage only" indication; however, many of these cars are rehabbed and shipped across the country where buyers are not told that they are buying a car that has been underwater and is permanently damaged and should not be driven.  All sorts of systems in the car can stop working at any moment.  If the car has been in salt water, it continues to erode as the months go by.  If you're in the market for a used car, do your research before buying by doing the following (1) checking with Car Fax or a similar service (but be aware that these records are not always accurate and up to date); (2) ask the seller to give you the previous owner's contact information so you can question him or her about the car's history; (3) get a free report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau at their website to find out any insurance company's history with the car;  (4) examine the car's title for anything suspicious or any notations such as "branded" or "salvage only"; and (5) have an independent mechanic examine the car to find out everything that is wrong with it mechanically, and discover if it has ever been in an accident or if it has been in a flood. 

Medicare Scam

In October of every year, those who become eligible for Medicare are allowed to join during an open enrollment period.  It is during this time when thieves are most likely to strike by contacting older people (whose names they get from purchased lists), and pretending to be from Medicare asking their victims to hand over personal data to speed up their enrollment in the Medicare program, or be issued new cards, or receive new or expanded benefits.  The thieves will try to get as much information as they can from their victims, including bank account information.  They use a Caller I.D. program that makes it appear as though they are calling from Medicare.

Long Distance Calls Scam

Thieves located in Canada and Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands are scamming millions of Americans out of a lot of money by tricking them in to calling a long distance number to confirm that a package is waiting for them or they've won a lottery or free cruise to their country.  There is no prize, just a really big long distance phone bill if you call the number listed on the post card or email you receive.  The victims don't realize that the phone number they are calling is similar to a 900 number in the USA, and are charged by the minute. The longer the telephone call lasts, the more money the thieves make, since they split the earnings with the carrier.  They can earn anywhere from $1.50 to $4.00 per minute, so the scammers try to keep the victim on the line by talking very slowly or putting them on hold to "check" something.  The victim doesn't realize what has happened until she receives the phone bill and has to try and get the charges reversed, which is often difficult to do.  Watch out for phone numbers starting with the area codes 809, 284 or 876 which originate from the Caribbean.  These scams also originate in Canada as well, so always find out from where an area code originates before dialing.  An even better option would be not to respond at all to free lottery and cruise offers. 

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