Advice from subscribers on credit card fees, fake software, contractor scams, puppy scams, travel scams, and photography contest scams: Internet Scambusters #287
Today we have more excellent advice and stories from subscribers. We're really pleased with all of the wonderful suggestions you send -- thank you! You'll find useful ideas about:
- Credit Card Fees
- Fake Anti-Virus Software
- Contractor Scams
- Puppy Scams
- Travel Scams
- Photography Contest Scams
On to today's main topic...
How To Avoid Extra Credit Card Fees and Surcharges
Ginny offers the following tip on avoiding late credit card fees based on our article in Issue #229:
The easiest way I've found to avoid late fees is to have the credit card bill paid automatically out of my bank account. It will be credited to you as paid on the date it is due and most companies usually don't take the money out of your account until 1-2 days afterwards.
The other way to make sure they're paid on time is to schedule your payment online ahead of time and it will be credited on the day you choose.
You mention the blank checks that come from credit card companies and recommend "knowing all the costs."
Did you know that you can also request the company to stop sending the checks altogether? This also removes those blank checks from the postal stream where they are subject to pilfering.
Editors Note: Good point. And if you do receive them, please remember to shred the blank checks if you don't plan on using them. You definitely don't want them to fall into the wrong hands.
Protect Yourself from Fake Anti-Virus Software
Malissa offers up an example you may not have heard of yet on fake software removal related to Issue #232.
This is especially terrifying and has happened to one of our Scambusters.org staffers as well:
I work in a university library. While surfing websites on my work computer earlier this week, I was startled by a popup that stated [inappropriate adult] material had potentially been downloaded.
The popup then proceeded with 'threatening' statements that I could get fired and lose my spouse and my family.
Of course, the fix was to click on the button to get the 'software' to clean it up!
This is the first time a popup of this kind has appeared and it actually scared me.
I didn't want to get fired or even go through the embarrassing process of trying to prove I'm innocent But reason took over and I saw this for what it was -- a scam. Boy, some people will do anything, won't they?
Thanks so much for publishing the Scambusters newsletter. I learn something new with almost every issue.
Contractor Scams: How to Avoid "Rent-a-Creep" Schemes
Mike offered some useful insights on our contractors scam issue:
Just a couple of things you missed: In nearly every state, anything you agree to buy when solicited at your home is covered by the "Home Solicitation Sales Act," which gives the consumer 3 days to change their mind.
This is why reputable contractors don't ever want to start work right away; they wait for this 3-day cooling off period to expire.
Also, the local building department should be called to check if the work they are selling requires a permit.
No homeowner should ever pull a permit in their own name for work being done by a contractor. If the contractor asks you to do this, you can be sure he's a crook.
A competent, independent home inspector, such as an ASHI member, would be glad to evaluate the problem in your home and give you an unbiased opinion on what needs to be done. Yes, that inspector will ask to be paid, but he has no interest in selling you anything, so he's not going to run the job up to collect a bigger commission.
ASHI home inspectors work only for the consumer, don't report to the local government or anyone else, and are not connected to any contractor. They can be the consumer's best resource, keeping homeowners out of trouble instead of paying an attorney after the trouble starts.
Stu offered up another contractor scam:
You wake up early in the morning and hear a bunch of banging on the roof. You go out and ask what in the world are they doing -- noticing that about half your roof has been torn off.
The guy says is this so and so address? You say no this is such and such. They say sorry we got the wrong house and start picking up their stuff to leave.
Now if you want to get this fixed, they'll fix it at a cheaper rate since they made a mistake. You feel as if you're forced to pay for a new roof when you didn't need one and you weren't prepared to pay for one.
More on Puppy Scams
Puppy scams are increasingly popular with scammers and are heartbreaking.
Mary offers up some good advice on avoiding being taken by a puppy scam:
You mention using the White Pages to look for a reputable puppy breeder in your recent e-mail on avoiding puppy buying scams.
A better source for finding a purebred puppy would be to contact the American Kennel Club which has a referral service.
Editor's Note: We are also big supporters of the great work done by dog rescue organizations.
How to Avoid Travel Scams When Vacationing Overseas
Cassandra offers up some good advice on travel scams:
In China, when purchasing from street vendors, give exact change when possible. Most of the bills they give back are fake. Tourists should look for the watermarks on the bills.
Editors Note: This is a good practice for any country you may be in, not just China.
Poetry Scams and Photography Contest Scams
We received more feedback about avoiding photography contest scams.
I'm a professional photographer and one of the problems with even legitimate photo contests is that the winner gets, say, $100 (which they probably will), but in entering such a contest, you may be assigning all copyright to the contest holders.
Many amateurs take incredible photos, either through planning or luck. Enter your incredible photo, and if the rules say you are giving away the copyright, you can never use it for anything; you have signed away all rights to it.
Many people may feel that it's worth $100 to see their image published -- and that can be very ego-gratifying. But the upshot is that the contest holder will OWN several hundred photos that they can do with as they see fit.
So read the rules VERY carefully, and decide accordingly.
Time to close -- we're off to take a walk. See you next week.