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Don't Be a Victim of Fraud

10 things to help you avoid being a victim of fraud:

1. Don't allow yourself to be pushed into a hurried decision. No matter what you're told to the contrary, the reality is that at least 99 percent of everything that's a good deal today will still be a good deal a week from now! And the other one percent isn't generally worth the risk you'd be taking to find out.

There may be times when you'll want to make a prompt decision, but those occasions shouldn't involve an irrevocable financial commitment to purchase a product or make an investment that you're not familiar with from a caller that you 2. Always request written information, by mail, about the product, service, investment or charity and about the organization that's offering it. For legitimate firms, this shouldn't be a problem. Swindlers, however, may not want to give you time for adequate consideration, may not have written material available, or may not want to risk a run-in with legal or regulatory authorities by putting fraudulent statements in writing.

Also insist on having enough time to study any information provided before being contacted again or agreeing to meet with anyone in person. Some high-pressure telephone sales calls are solely for the purpose of persuading you to meet with an even higher-pressure sales person in your home!

3. Don't make any investment or purchase you don't fully understand. A beauty of the American economy is the diversity of investment vehicles and other products available. But it's a diversity that includes the bad as well as the good. Unless you fully understand what you'd be buying or investing, you can be badly burned. Swindlers intentionally seek out individuals who don't know what they are doing! They often attempt to flatter prospects into thinking they are making an informed decision.

4. Ask what state or federal agencies the firm is regulated by and/or is required to be registered with. And if you get an answer, ask for a phone number or address that you can use to contact the agency and verify the answer yourself. If the firm says it's not subject to any regulation, you may want to increase your level of caution accordingly.

5. Check out the company or organization. If you assume a firm wouldn't provide you with information, references, or regulatory contacts unless the information was accurate and reliable, that's precisely what swindlers want you to assume. They know that most people never bother to follow through. Look at it this way: Most victims of fraud contact a regulatory agency after they've lost their money; it's far better to make the contact and obtain whatever information is available while you still have your money.

6. If an investment or major purchase is involved, request that information also be sent to your accountant, financial advisor, banker, or attorney for evaluation and an opinion. Swindlers don't want you to seek a second opinion. Their reluctance or evasiveness could be your tip-off.

7. Ask what recourse you would have if you make a purchase and aren't satisfied. If there's a guarantee or refund provision, it's best to have it in writing and be satisfied that the business will stand behind its guarantee before you make a final financial commitment.

8. Beware of testimonials that you may have no way of checking out. They may involve nothing more than someone being paid a fee to speak well of a product or service.

9. Don't provide personal financial information over the phone unless you are absolutely certain the caller has a bona fide need to know. That goes especially for your credit card numbers and bank account information. The only time you should give anyone your credit card number is if you've decided to make a purchase and want to charge it. If someone says they'll send a bill later but they need your credit card number in the meantime, be cautious and be certain you're dealing with a reputable company.

10. If necessary, hang up. If you're simply not interested, if you become subject to high-pressure sales tactics, if you can't obtain the information you want or get evasive answers, or if you hear your own better judgment whispering that you may be making a serious mistake, just say good-bye.