Avoiding fraud

They may sound simple, but most people forget the most common ways to avoid being defrauded:

1. If it's a deal that won't last until tomorrow or next week, it probably isn't a good deal anyway.

Honest business people are willing to let people take their time and make a wise decision. Dishonest business people don't care. Take time to consider the deal.

2. If someone wants you to keep the deal a secret, it is almost a guaranteed con, no matter how good it seems.

Talk it over with friends, family, and an attorney. Letting other people look at it often shows it for what it is because they are not emotionally involved.

Don't try to sell the idea, just give them the facts. If it is a great deal, they'll tell you. Be sure to also work with your attorney through the whole process. A good attorney will help make sure that you operate above the law and that you have a properly prepared contract.

3. If someone suggests that a great deal will get you something for nothing, it is a fraud, GUARANTEED!

It could also be something that lands you in jail or worse. (Check out the Nigerian schemes .)

4. All contracts should be in writing and all terms should be clearly spelled out.

With very few exceptions, stipulations that are not included in the contract are not enforceable. The court will likely assume that any prior verbal agreements that are not included in the contract were part of the process of negotiation process and one or neither party intended them as part of the final contract.

Remember, a contract and all provisions in the contract must be agreed to by both parties. If a provision is not in the contract, the court must assume that the parties did not agree to it.

5. Be sure to read all the print, including the back of any agreement.

There are often terms that are included there that will affect your rights.

6. If you don't fully understand the agreement, demand time to review it.

If you still don't understand it, talk to an attorney and get their opinion. You will pay for an attorney's time, but in most cases, the costs are less than the potential risk.

7. Don't sign any contract based upon verbal promises that are not represented within the contract.

In most cases, a written contract overrules any verbal understanding or promise that was made prior to signing the contract. In some cases, verbal promises that are made after signing the contract may be enforceable, but only if they can be proven.

If there are verbal agreements made after the documents are signed, make sure that those conditions are added to all copies of the document or a subsequent addendum to the contract is signed. Make sure that all addendums are signed and dated and that you receive a copy of each.

In some cases where you are promised additional services, a formal letter that is signed by a corporate officer will suffice. However, the specific language of that letter is very important.

A letter that seeks to explain a portion of the contract is generally enforceable as a part of that contract because it defines the writer's intent within the contract. A letter that promises additional services may be viewed as a good-will gesture and may or may not be enforceable. If in doubt, you should seek the opinion of an attorney to make sure that you have legal grounds to enforce the provisions of that letter.

8. If you make an agreement, put it in writing and have both parties sign it.

You should do this even for trusted family and friends. Doing so will make sure that all parties fully understand the terms and will serve as a point of reference if terms are forgotten or in case of the death of one of the parties. The surviving party will then have documentation to present to the estate's executor.

Bottom line, if people are willing to give their word of honor about an agreement, they shouldn't have a problem committing their signature to a contract. All too often, people will be shy about requiring a friend or relative sign a contract. Signing the contract however, will often save the friendship because it affirms the fact in the mind of both parties, that this is a contract, not just a plan or an idea that one or both parties can opt out of at any time.

9. Avoid conmen by asking for references and then check them out.

Conmen don't have good references. Sure, they may come up with excuses why they cannot or won't give you a reference, but if they can't, walk away.

If a person gives references, be sure to check them out thoroughly. Most conmen know that many people will not bother to check references because they assume that nobody would give them false references. In some cases, the references have had bad or no history with the person or company.

10. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce and BBB.

Make sure that these people with whom you intend to do business, haven't left the last fifty customers holding the proverbial bag. A clean record doesn't guarantee that there rare no problems, but a bad record is an obvious red flag.

11. Get rich schemes are for the birds.

There are none. You aren't going to make $50,000 per year surfing the Internet or reading books. Nobody is going to pay you hundreds of thousands of dollars per year searching down dead-beat dads. You aren't going to get rich selling knickknacks on the Internet. Only an idiot is going to sell you his $250,000 house for $150,000. And if putting ads in local papers was so lucrative, would they be telling you their secrets?

Any time that someone tells you or infers to you that they have a "wealth-building secret" that you can buy for $59, ask yourself if it was so good, why are they selling it so cheap and why do they have to advertise at all?

12. There is no such thing as a guaranteed high rate of return on an investment.

If there were, everyone would be all over it, and the guy that wants to do business with you wouldn't need your money. He'd have access to unlimited funds and wouldn't share it with you. If someone says the word "Guarantee", walk away. There are none.

13. Conmen are smooth operators.

If they weren't, they couldn't stay in business. Even if they sound nice and sincere, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Remember, successful conmen don't get to be successful unless they are very good at sounding sincere.

14. Some conmen try to determine what makes you tick.

If you are Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, etc., they know how to become that too, hoping that you will bond with them and not do your due diligence. If you are liberal or conservative, they can do either.

Look out for salespeople that tell you that they are just like you. Don't buy the product or service based purely on what you think of the salesperson. They aren't there to make friends, but most will make you think they are.

Save yourself some frustration. Check everybody out with their references and the institutions that watch our for fraud.

Having done it all right, there is still the potential to be taken. However, if you fully check out all your resources, you will be able to avoid the bad guys almost every time.

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