These Sharks Prey on Consumers

shark 150x150 These Sharks Prey on ConsumersIt’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! But there’s more than great whites, tiger sharks and whale sharks to make you quake in your waders.

Take the loan shark. He or she sits in front of a computer – could be in the United States, maybe Canada, most likely Romania – waiting for desperate consumers to log onto websites that promise loans regardless of credit history. And since you’re desperate, you don’t think twice about wiring a service fee prior to receiving the loan. But you never see the promised loan and you’ve lost the upfront fee as well.

 BBB Advice: Legitimate financial lenders do not charge upfront fees to process a loan application. If you’re asked to pay an upfront fee, swim away from the shark as fast as you can! If you apply and do receive funds, repay the loan on time or you could be looking at a 782 percent interest rate. No, that’s not a typo.

Beware of the sweepstakes shark. This deadly predator comes in the form of an email or letter announcing that you’ve just won a million-dollar sweepstakes! If it’s an email, you’re asked to wire a fee to cover administrative fees and taxes; if it’s a letter, you’re instructed to deposit the enclosed check (which is fake, by the way), and then wire the handling fee so you can get your prize. When you don’t get your sweepstakes cash, you begin to feel like you’ve been taken. You should, because you have been.

 BBB Advice: You cannot win a sweepstakes you did not enter. If you have to pay a fee to claim a prize, you are not a winner, you are a scam victim. The only winner here is – you guessed right – the sweepstakes shark.

Never open your door to a storm shark. These scam artists, dressed like legitimate contractors, follow tornadoes, windstorms and hailstorms from city to city, state to state, to take advantage of homeowners in a hurry to repair their homes. Some come bearing flyers, others drop by to say they have materials –roofing, decking, fencing – left over from a job down the street and you can have a deal of a lifetime if you OK the work today.

 BBB Advice: Don’t be in a hurry to say “yes” to an out-of-town contractor who rings your doorbell with a deal too good to be true. If you need repair work done on your home, take time to research reliable contractors. Check them out with the BBB and check out their references. Never pay for entire the job upfront and don’t pay with cash.

Do you have a story to tell about a close encounter with one of these “sharks?”



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About Luanne Kadlub

Luanne Kadlub, communications specialist for BBB Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming, has been a writer/editor for newspapers, magazines and nonprofits.