Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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18 Hot Tips

1. Before hiring a home improvement contractor, check out the person's references, make sure they have a local, fixed address, and always get a written contract that explains the terms of your agreement.

2. If someone promises you that you are guaranteed to get a loan or other credit, and asks for a fee in advance, don't do it!! It's against the law to charge an up-front fee (except for a credit report and appraisal for a mortgage).

3. Watch out for the real cost of magazines being sold by telephone or door-to-door they are usually very expensive. Get a copy of a written contract before you agree.

4. If you don't know who the person on the other end of the phone really is, do not give out your credit card or bank account number unless you are sure you want to buy. Never give out your credit card or bank account number unless you are sure the person you are speaking with represents the company or group you choose to do business with.

5. You do not have to pay for information about job vacancies with the U.S. Government or Postal Service. And, there are no "hidden" or "unadvertised" jobs with the Government or Postal Service.

6. Watch out for fraud on the Internet!! Just because it's advertised or posted on-line doesn't mean it's legitimate. Be cautious about giving out credit card numbers and other important information. Scam artists work the Internet, too!

7. Pre-paid funeral and burial contracts can save you money and heartache. If you are considering purchasing funeral or burial needs in advance, take your time and shop around. Ask for everything in writing before you agree to buy and check out the seller and the deal before you buy.

8. There are no risk free, high return investments. If the deal is alleged to be foolproof, guaranteed and only available for a day or two, walk away and save your money for a legitimate investment. Get advice from family members or a trusted professional before you invest.

9. If your car needs repair work, take it to a garage you know and trust, or find one by asking friends and relatives. Get the estimate in writing. Repairs and costs cannot exceed the estimate without your prior approval.

10. There are no "quick and easy" ways to lose weight. Weight loss takes time and effort. Be wary of exaggerated claims and long term financial commitments. Talk to a health professional about diet programs before you spend money.

11. Make sure your toll-free call is really toll free. Although 800 and 888 numbers start out at no charge, pay attention to the recorded instructions, because the call might be changed to a toll call. If you don't want to be charged, hang up before charges start.

12. Watch out for phony or unscrupulous charitable solicitations, especially by telephone. Ask for information in writing before committing to a donation and before you give out your credit card information. Many phony charities have names that sound like legitimate ones, so be careful. Check out the charity before you give.

13. Just because a group has "police" or "firefighter" in its name doesn't mean its members are police officers or firefighters. Watch out for solicitors especially telephone solicitors asking for money for those groups. Many times the money goes in the pockets of the solicitors instead.

14. Debt collectors cannot harass you or call you at work if you tell them that such calls are not permitted. If you contest the debt, do so in writing to the debt collector and the debtor. Do not ignore efforts to collect legitimate debts you owe, as that can lead to long-term harm to your credit rating.

15. There is no way to "repair" a legitimate bad credit history. It is illegal for someone to charge money in advance to clean up your credit history. It is also illegal to create a new "credit identity." There is no such legal program, and trying to change your credit identity violates numerous state and federal laws.

16. Be alert for criminals invading your home by telephone. Telemarketing scams steal more than $40 billion dollars a year from Americans. If you don't know the person, hang up!!!

17. Have you been called and told you've won a prize, but eventually you've been asked to make a purchase or donation, or send money for taxes, handling and the like? That's illegal!! Don't give out credit card or bank information, and hang up at once!!

18. If you have lost money to fraudulent telemarketers, be wary of people calling you and offering to help you get that money back. Usually it's for a fee in advance, and that is illegal. Almost always, that's someone who is connected with the person who ripped you off the first time. Hang up!!