1. Internet AuctionsAfter sending their money, consumers say theyve received an item that is less valuable than promised, or, worse yet, nothing at all. If you participate in online auctions, particularly for a valuable item, check out the seller and insist on paying with a credit card or using an escrow service.
2. Internet Access ProvidersConsumers say theyve been "trapped" into long-term contracts for Internet access or another web service, with big penalties for cancellation or early termination. If a check arrives at your home or business, read both sides carefully and look inside the envelope to find the conditions youre agreeing to if you cash the check. Read your phone bill carefully for unexpected or unauthorized charges.
3. Web CrammingYou are offered a free custom-designed website for a 30-day trial period, with no obligation to continue. Consumers say theyve been charged on their telephone bills or received a separate invoice, even if they never accepted the offer or agreed to continue the service after the trial period. Review your telephone bills and challenge any charges you dont recognize.
4. Travel and VacationYou are offered a luxurious trip with lots of "extras" at a bargain-basement price. Consumers say some companies deliver lower-quality accommodations and services than theyve advertised or no trip at all. Others have been hit with hidden charges or additional requirements after theyve paid. Get references on any travel company youre planning to do business with. Then, get details of the trip in writing, including the cancellation policy, before signing on.
5. InvestmentsYou are told you can make an initial investment in a day trading system or service and youll quickly realize huge returns. Check out the promoter with state and federal securities and commodities regulators, and talk to other people who invested through the program to find out what level of risk youre assuming.
6. International Modem DialingGet free access to adult material and pornography by downloading a "viewer" or "dialer" computer program. Consumers complained about exorbitant long-distance charges on their phone bill. Through the program, their modem is disconnected, then reconnected to the Internet through an international long-distance number.
7. Credit CardsYou are told you can surf the Internet and view adult images online for free, just for sharing your credit card number to prove youre over 18. Consumers say that fraudulent promoters have used their credit card numbers to run up charges on their cards. Share credit card information only when buying from a company you trust. Dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card bill by complaining to the bank that issued the card. Federal law limits your liability to $50 in charges if your card is misused.
8. Multilevel Marketing and Pyramid SchemesYou are told you can make money through the products and services you sell as well as those sold by the people you recruit into the program. Consumers say that theyve bought into plans and programs, but their customers are other distributors, not the general public. Some multilevel marketing programs are actually illegal pyramid schemes. When products or services are sold only to distributors like yourself, theres no way to make money. Avoid plans that require you to recruit distributors, buy expensive inventory or commit to a minimum sales volume.
9. Business OpportunitiesBe your own boss and earn big bucks. Taken in by promises about potential earnings, many consumers have invested in a "biz op" that turned out to be a "biz flop." There was no evidence to back up the earnings claims. Talk to other people who started businesses through the same company, get all the promises in writing, and study the proposed contract carefully before signing. Get an attorney or an accountant to take a look at it, too.
10. Health Care Products & ServicesThe claim is that items not sold through traditional suppliers are "proven" to cure serious and even fatal health problems. Claims for "miracle" products and treatments convince consumers that their health problems can be cured. But people with serious illnesses who put their hopes in these offers might delay getting the health care they need. Consult a health care professional before buying any "cure-all" that claims to treat a wide range of ailments or offers quick cures and easy solutions to serious illnesses.
This information was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission.