Serving the citizens of Clear Creek, Eagle, Summit and Lake Counties

Tips for Consumers

Avoiding Charity Scams » Avoiding Home Improvement Scams » Avoiding Investment Fraud » Avoiding Sweepstake/Lottery Scams » Avoid Foreclosure Rescue Scams »

 

  • Contribute to known and verifiable charities. Research the organization’s status, registration filings and complaints.
  • Beware of callers who want your money fast or use high-pressured tactics. When solicited by phone, always ask the caller to send you written materials about the charity. No legitimate organization will insist that you donate immediately. Watch out for solicitors who employ dramatic, emotional or heart-tugging stories. Ask for written information about the charity and how your money will be spent or distributed
  • Avoid giving cash. Make checks out to the charity not to an individual. Give your contribution by check or credit card so that you have a record of the donation. If you choose to make a donation via a charity’s website, check to ensure that the website is secure and that your computer is equipped with the latest anti-virus protection. Don’t send contributions with a “runner,” by wire or overnight parcel pick-up
  • Ask if the donation is tax deductable
  • Ask what percentage of donations is used towards the cause as opposed to administrative costs
  • Guard against fake solicitations. Be wary of unsolicited mailings, phone calls and e-mails requesting donations. Unless you have signed up to receive e-mails from a charity of your choice, do not respond to e-mail solicitations. Don’t click on any links contained in these e-mails, as you may be directed to a fake website made to look like a legitimate organization’s official site. Other e-mails ask for money to be sent to off-shore bank accounts
  • Don’t disclose personal or financial information. Never give your Social Security number, credit card or debit card number or other personal identifying information in response to an unsolicited charitable request, especially over the phone
  • Be extra careful after a natural disaster when unscrupulous organizations may seek donations, even though only a small percentage of the money, if any, will actually be used to assist victims.
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  • Ask for proof of insurance coverage (e.g. workers compensation, property, liability)
  • Ask for local references and call the references to see if they were satisfied with the work. If possible, visually inspect examples of the contractor’s work; do not rely on photographs provided by the contractor
  • Get at least three written estimates, especially if the job is big
  • Ask about experience and training
  • Inquire whether the project requires a permit, and who is responsible for obtaining it. Consider double-checking with local authorities about whether a permit is required.
  • Get a written contact. Under the law, contracts for jobs costing $500 or more must be in writing, but it’s best to get a written contract in all cases. Make sure the contract includes:
    • The approximate start date and completion date of the work, including any contingencies that would change the completion date
    • A specific description of the work and materials, including brands, model numbers and other identifying information, along with the price
    • A requirement that the contractor will comply with all applicable laws, regulations and codes, and that no work will be done until the contractor has obtained all necessary permits
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  • Research the “investment opportunity.” Investments must be suitable for your lifestyle and income-level
  • Carefully read over the prospectus or information presented with the investment opportunity before acting
  • Check to ensure the broker, investment adviser, and his/her firm are licensed or registered with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Don’t be pressured to act quickly
  • Ask for advice from a trusted family member or friend
  • If you suspect a scam, contact the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330
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  • Don’t pay anything to collect sweepstake winnings
  • Remember that United States residents cannot purchase tickets in international lotteries through the mail or over the phone
  • NEVER wire or transfer money
  • Do not send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier
  • Don’t give personally identifying or financial information to callers
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If you bought the home of your dreams, the last thing you want to worry about is the threat of foreclosure and losing your investment. And you certainly don’t want to end up dealing with bogus “foreclosure rescue” companies, who only want to take your money and leave you homeless.

The Federal Reserve offers the following five tips to help consumers avoid foreclosure scams.

  • Check the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s list of approved foreclosure assistance agencies before agreeing to work with anyone. You can search by state on HUD’s web site or call 877-HUD-1515 (877-483-1515).
  • It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money. Most agencies approved by HUD provide services for little or no charge. Stay away from anyone who collects a payment before providing services or who will only take a cashier’s check or wire transfer. It’s always important to always know what exactly you’re paying for.
  • If someone guarantees to stop the foreclosure process, that’s not a good sign. Be wary of anyone who makes such a promise. Reputable counselors can help prevent foreclosure from happening, but nothing is guaranteed. Get everything in writing first.
  • Read all documents carefully before signing off on them. Don’t be rushed. Ask questions and make sure you understand what you’re signing. Avoid signing blank forms that a counselor will fill out later. It’s a good idea to talk to an attorney before signing off on documents that will transfer the title of your home.
  • Always trust your instincts. Seek help if you think you’ve fallen victim to a foreclosure scam. The Federal Trade Commission’s web site has more information on foreclosure rescue scams.
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