Scams can take many different shapes and sizes

The Craig Better Business Bureau offers the following advice regarding various scams that are frequently seen in the local community:

CHARITY SCAMS

Sometimes charity shouldn't begin at home. This year people probably receive dozens of requests to give to charity, either through mail or the phone. In fact, once someone has given to charity, the number of solicitations received frequently increases.

Although fund-raisers may use emotional pleas and high pressure, remember people are never under any obligation to give. Who gets most of the donation those in need or the professional fund-raiser? It is important to find out in order to give wisely.

Never give cash.

Make checks out to organizations, not individuals.

Ask about the charity programs and services, and don't accept vague answers. Ask the charity to mail information about the organization with substantiating documents.

Take time when making a decision; charities that need money today will also need it tomorrow.

PRIZE SCAMS

"Winning" can make someone a loser.

Everyone wants to be a winner, but some "prizes" aren't worth the price of winning. Many people in the Mountain States Better Business Bureau region have received telephone calls or postcards telling about a "fabulous" prize. But some prizes are used as a lure to sell an overpriced product. And the prize won't be what was expected. For example, a "home entertainment center" may turn out to be a tiny keyboard that fits in the palm of a hand. Some companies will ask buyers to pay for shipping. Unfortunately, the shipping charge often exceeds the value of the prize.

Never pay money to receive a prize.

Legitimate winners are usually notified by certified mail.

Never give credit card or bank account numbers.

HOME REPAIR SCAMS

Most homes probably aren't in need of immediate costly repair. But some home repair scam artists would like people to believe their chimney, driveway, foundation or roofing is in dire need of repair.

They'll show up at the door with an out-of-state license plate, offering to do work for a low price. Or they may claim they have materials left over from a previous job. But beware, they could take off with the money before doing anything, ask for more money and fail to finish, or do the job with cheap materials and shoddy workmanship.

A home repair project can be a major investment, so take as much time selecting a contractor as when making any major purchase.

Never hire someone who just shows up at the door without first checking on them.

Never pay more than 1/3 of a job in advance.

Always get at least three written estimates, making sure like materials are quoted.

Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured.

The Craig Better Business Bureau offers free information services through the investment of member businesses. Call 1-800-564-0371 before making spending decisions and check out the organization's reliability report.

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