Hey, kids! Seniors aren’t the only targets

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During the past few months it seems that many — if not most — of the scams and cons we’ve covered, specifically target those of us who are over the age of 50. It seems that the elderly are being disproportionately targeted. This is not necessarily true.

Younger people often don’t talk about being scammed for the same reason seniors don’t: It’s embarrassing. Nobody likes to admit that they’ve been had — especially young, sharp, savvy millennials.

So just to balance the scales a little, I thought I’d list a few classic scams and cons that the younger generation fall for:

Inexpensive Luxury Goods: Can you say counterfeit? It seems that half the world is turning out cheap knockoff goods and the other half is buying them up as fast as they’re made. From clothing to handbags, to shoes to cellular phones, there is a rising tide of cheap, counterfeit goods being hawked on the internet.

The purveyors of this garbage disappear overnight. The buyers of this junk, once they discover what they bought, are too embarrassed to admit they were duped.

It all comes down to the old adage, “If it seems too good (or cheap) to be true, it probably is.”

Information Phishing or Mining: Online job applications and credit card applications are a prime source of data for identity thieves and scammers. With only a phone number and a couple pieces of innocent information, a con artist can contact you and “confirm” additional information like your Social Security number, driver’s license number, date of birth, and so on.

You get the idea; pretty soon you’ve handed over all your essential, PRIVATE information in hopes of landing a great job or securing a low-interest, high-limit, prestige credit card.

(P.S. There’s no such thing as a “prestige” credit card. No clerk ever said, or thought, “Wow, he has an executive platinum limited edition credit card!” All they care about is, can they run a charge without it being kicked back? Don’t pay extra for flash and glitter.)

Contests: The hope of getting lucky, winning a contest, getting something for next to nothing, is a universal quest. There’s one “magazine” company that has made hundreds of millions of dollars selling cheap products (crap) that you’d probably never buy in a local store. Do you really believe that a company selling only magazines offers those who win their sweepstakes “$5,000 per week for life?” In fact, they make their money selling your information to other merchants, some more reputable than others. Enter a contest like this and you give up your privacy.

Scholarships and Grants: High school students are continually bombarded with the prospect of getting a scholarship or a grant for their continuing education. There’s nothing wrong with a legitimate scholarship or grant. Unfortunately, scammers and con artists offer the unsuspecting young person the promise of easy money.

In the most common scam, the applicant is required to pay an administrative/application fee up front. Once the fee is paid, your personal information is broadcast to every degree mill and company offering “grants” and “scholarships.” Much of the financial aid is in the form of reduced tuition.

The fact is, no one ever pays the full price. If the advertised price for a school or course is $6K and your “scholarship” entitles you to only pay $2K, did you really get a $4K scholarship? Not really. But you certainly paid them money up front for the privilege of being charged the normal fee for the course of study.

NEVER pay money to receive a scholarship or grant. Paying money kinda defeats the purpose of getting financial aid, doesn’t it?

Online Auctions: Be careful. This ruse is a double-edged blade. 1. You might pay for an item and never receive it, or 2. You might auction off your property, send it off, and never be paid.

Craigslist also falls into this category. Craigslist has become a haven for cons and scams of every type. It’s almost funny to place an item for sale on Craigslist and see how long it takes for the crooks to contact you to separate you from your goods. Often it’s only a matter of minutes. My advice: Stay away from Craigslist.

Cellphones: Almost every young person has a cellphone these days. Everyone wants to customize his or her phone with the latest wallpaper, ringtone, app or case. The problem is that all these “accessories” can be cheaply made and offered on the internet. Try getting your money back from one of these companies — it’s impossible. Here today, gone tomorrow (or sooner).

Many of the ringtones, wallpapers or apps also slip in a little clause allowing the company to conveniently charge you by adding their charge to your cell phone bill — EACH AND EVERY MONTH! The scam companies also label the charges to make them appear to be legitimate. To get them to stop making the charge, it is often necessary to change your cell phone number.

ENOUGH, BILL! OK, you get it. Seniors aren’t the only ones targeted by scammers and con artists. Everyone needs to be on guard to protect themselves. Parents need to be especially aware of what their teens or young people are doing on their cellphones and on the internet.

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FINAL THOUGHTS: Frontier Communications and Spectrum are really working hard to solve consumer problems. Too bad I can’t say the same about DishTV and DirecTV. Maybe there’s hope for the future. Maybe.

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Remember: I’m in your corner.

•••

I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on as The CDA Press Consumer Guy. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksRealEstate@gmail.com or fax me at (866) 362-9266. Please include your name and a phone number. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups.

•••

Bill Brooks is the CDA Press Consumer Guy and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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