By Luanne Kadlub
Have you ever wondered why people spend hundreds – sometimes thousands of dollars – throwing dull darts at underinflated balloons at local carnivals only to come away with a poorly constructed teddy bear or empty pockets? Or why some (if not a lot) think nothing of handing over a wallet full of dollar bills so their small fry can catch a rubber ducky and win a prize?
While lots of people will be doing just that at outdoor fairs and carnivals this summer, even more people play games of chance every day of the year. What both groups of people have in common is that very few become winners.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common schemes and what you can do to prevent becoming a big-time loser.
Lotteries. Chances are you’ve bought a lottery ticket or two, especially when the PowerBall reaches megamillions. These are legitimate games, even though the odds of winning are astronomical. Instead, be wary of notices that arrive by email or snail mail announcing that you’ve won a foreign lottery. First of all, you can’t win a foreign lottery if you did not purchase the ticket while in that country. Secondly, playing foreign lotteries is illegal – unless you are in that country.
Sweepstakes. We’ve all seen the commercials for Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Although this particular sweepstakes is legit, many others are designed to appear to be the same thing in hopes you’ll enter and many others just hope you’ll respond to any and all sweepstakes. Phony sweepstakes announce you’re a winner but state that you must send or wire a certain amount to cover handling fees and taxes. If you respond, not only will you lose your money but your name will be added to a bazillion other mailing lists for sweepstakes. And no, you’re not a winner.
Government Grants. Wouldn’t it be nice if the government really did want to pay for your education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, even unpaid bills? Ads are prolific online and in print for government grants. All claim you will qualify for such a grant and that your application is guaranteed to be accepted. After congratulating you on your eligibility, they’ll ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account” or cover a one-time “processing fee.” And they’ll even reassure you that you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied. Good luck with that. In these schemes you won’t get the grant or your money back.
Free Trial Offers. All free trials must come to an end. Not all of them do. Many people, lured by offers of free trials for vitamins, weight-loss products, teeth whiteners and countless others, later discover that canceling the service or product is near to impossible. In the meantime, their credit cards continue to be charged the monthly fee.
Before you find yourself ensnared in these or similar consumer traps, do your homework. Research any company you consider doing business with by going to wynco.bbb.org and do a general computer search to see what kinds of experiences other consumers say they have had with that company.
If it’s too late and you’ve become a victim, report it to the FTC at consumer.ftc.gov and your BBB at wynco.bbb.org.
Start With Trust. For more consumer tips and information, visit bbb.org.