Repeat after me: “You can’t get something for nothing.” Got that?
Now this one: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”
They are cliches for a reason. Yet, even if a sucker isn’t born every minute, plenty of consumers turn into one by thinking they can get something for nothing or believing claims that are too good to be true.
The temptations that lead consumers astray take various forms. Indeed, some actually are forms.
If you see a pad of contest entry forms with a sign that says “You can win…,” you are being led to temptation. Inevitably, on the back of that form will be some explanation about how all that personal information you’re divulging will be used to try to sell you timeshares or some such thing.
Your personal information is valuable. By offering it up with the mistaken belief you have a chance to win, you’ll be opening yourself up to a spate of other sales calls because a) you just authorized it and b) you’ve been branded a sucker.
At festivals, at ballgames – just about anywhere that people congregate in large numbers – there’s a chance you’ll confront one of these contests and people entering them. Walk past.
Similarly, beware of “deals” like those on infomercials, where if you buy one, you get another free or some other enticement. It may appear you’re getting way more for your money, but there’s usually a quickly spoken disclaimer or an asterisk on the screen that explains you’ll pay processing or handling fees for the “free” item. If you haven’t already experienced it, that added cost can be as much as the item’s price -- or more.
Apply the same logic to trial subscriptions. Some are particularly shady, but many are predicated on the knowledge that many people simply won’t cancel when that free period is up, even if they don’t plan to continue.
Oh yeah, and watch out for vanity plays like the ones that suggest your child (or you) has what it takes to be a model or actor. They just want your money.
Apply a dose of skepticism to the offers you encounter. Consider what is behind them before you move forward. Do they want your personal information? Do they want your credit card number? What do they want?
Or, just avoid the temptations and live by the cliches.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com