Throughout history, people have been using clever methods to separate other people from their money. There are many sad stories of con artists taking advantage of people and tricking them out of their hard earned money, sometimes leaving them completely destitute.
Fortunately, at least in the United States, there are laws and entire branches of government dedicated to preventing fraud and prosecuting these criminals. Unfortunately, criminals have become very adept at finding loopholes and using technology to come up with new ways to defraud people.
Sadly, many methods devised to trick you into handing over your money are perfectly legal. We’ve interviewed marketing veterans with hundreds of years of combined experience in marketing and advertising to find out what the biggest tricks are, and more importantly, how to recognize and avoid them.
1) Free Trial or “Just Pay Shipping and Handling”
What It Is – A clever way to get you to hand over your credit card information under the guise of paying a “small shipping and handling charge” to receive what appears to be a valuable product. Maybe it’s a skin cream or diet plan that “normally retails for $99, but we’ll send it to you today for just $9.95 shipping and handling.”
How It Works and Why It’s a Trick – Sure, they’ll send you the product for just $9.95 shipping and handling (or sometimes for no charge at all, as long as you provide a credit card). But next month you’ll probably see a $99 or $199 charge on your credit card for the product itself. And often times you’ll continue to receive additional shipments and be billed the full price on the credit card you provided. A fast talking telemarketer may mention something about being billed, but often it’s missed by the customer. Same for the tiny, tiny print at the bottom of print and TV advertisements and the terms and conditions hidden on many web sites.
How To Protect Yourself – If the product is advertised in a print ad, get out your magnifying glass and read the fine print. If you’re buying the product online, there’s usually a link for “Terms and Conditions” that will reveal what you’re really going to be billed (they’re usually very long with lots of legalese, so be patient and read it all). And if you’re buying the product over the phone, be very specific with the agent about what you’re going to be billed and when. Most of those calls are recorded, so the agent will likely tell you the truth when asked, since those recordings can be used as evidence.