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How many times have you heard someone say, “I had to buy it because it was a bargain”? There
really is a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately, that sucker is often the individual who is just
starting out and learning how to manage his or her money.
So, let’s talk about the big deals (i.e., scams) you should avoid. Most of this is common sense, but
people fall for these scams every day:
▪ Telemarketers of every kind—I’ll make this easy. Do not purchase anything from a
phone solicitor.
▪ Mailings that promise you free trips or other prizes—ultimately, there is always a
“hook” here, and it almost always results in your loss of both time and money. These
kinds of mailings will often ask you to pay handling fees and taxes in advance. Rest
assured that once you send in your taxes/handling fees, you will never see the prize you
won (or it won’t be as described).
▪ Internet e-mail offers—We have all received one telling us we’ve been selected by a
foreign individual to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars. To receive it, all you
need to do is send this person a few dollars and/or your bank account information. If
you ever did it, you wouldn’t find anything left in your bank account a few days later.
▪ Paying fees in advance for receiving loans or credit cards—No matter how bad your
credit is, don’t ever do this.
▪ Advertised job opportunities that ask for a fee—If you’re asked for an up-front fee
to get the job, walk away from the opportunity. Many “work at home” opportunities are
scams that take away both your money and your identity (don’t ever give out your social
security number to a prospective employer until you’ve met someone there and have
confirmed the company’s legitimacy).
▪ Miracle products—Pills that guarantee you will lose fifteen pounds in two weeks,
sprays that make your bald head full of hair, knives that will cut through a four-hundred
page book. OK, you get the point.
Even though I’ve warned you about some potential pitfalls, I’m almost certain you will still fall for
one of these. I did!
When I was a twenty-two-year-old graduate student, I received a truly unbelievable mailing. It said
that I had won a car, a sailboat, or $5,000. The mailing showed the specific prizes. I was instructed to
call and set up an appointment to pick up my prize. Being skeptical, I called and asked a number of
questions, including “Would the boat be large enough to sail in a lake?” The person couldn’t specify
the size of the boat but assured me that it would be large enough to sail in a lake. I learned that I
would find out which prize I would receive after they “talked to me” for thirty minutes or so.
The location was about an hour away, so I fueled up my car and went to claim my prize. I sat through
the time-share presentation and afterwards went to pick up my prize. I was excited to win the boat. I
wasn’t so excited when I saw that the boat was a $3 toy boat that indeed could sail in a lake!
I lost virtually no money on this (just my gas money). However, the poor guy who was in line right
after me had taken a day off work and had driven two hours with his family for the prize. He lost time,
money, and his pride in front of his family.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay away from it. Strangers aren’t just going
to give you something for nothing. I can guarantee that.

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