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Avoid Scams

No matter how many times you’ve heard it, it bears repeating: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Chances are you’ve heard of at least some of these common scams.

Work-at-home: Many work-at-home schemes require you to spend a lot of your own money on supplies or equipment you need to do the job. The most common schemes involve medical billing, envelope stuffing, and assembly or craft work.
Pyramid schemes: The pitch is that you make money by selling a product or service and recruiting other people to sell it, too. In Pennsylvania, pyramid schemes that require more than a $25 “investment” are illegal. Avoid a “business opportunity” that requires you to recruit distributors, buy expensive inventory or commit to a certain amount of sales.

Chain letters: It is illegal to start or even forward a chain letter promising big profits in exchange for sending money or valuables. Some chain letters claim to be legal or even endorsed by the government—they’re not.

Internet auctions: Buyers may get less than they imagined or nothing at all. Before you buy, check the policies of the site and the reputation of the seller. If you do buy, pay with a credit card or a well-established escrow service.

Free/discount travel: Be careful about offers for free vacations or bargain travel. Don’t give out your credit card number unless all the fees are completely spelled out. Before you buy anything, make sure you know what you’re really getting.

Charity fraud: Con artists play on your sympathy by using current events and tragic stories to lure you into sending money. Check out a charity before you give to make sure it’s for real. If an unsolicited e-mail (spam) includes a link to a charity’s site, don’t use it—it might just link you to a fake site.

Miracle cures: Products that promise miraculous results are usually bogus. Look for proof from respected sources, such as medical journals or professionals. Don’t be fooled—products that claim to be “safe” or “natural” may not be safe at all.