A Little Help for Our Friends: Consumer Tips
By Kay Coyte
We’re introducing a new feature for you this month, appearing first in the newsletter, then here and on social media. In honor of Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher’s beat as the “Helping Out” reporter from KWMT-TV in the Caught Dead in Wyoming series, I will be offering consumer tips drawn from the books. The tips will be fleshed out with some consumer reporting — putting my journalism background to work – and will include links for more information. We’d also be happy to take your additional suggestions on the subjects we cover, keeping the conversation going. Eventually, we’ll collect these tips into a single resource on this website.
(Note to Washington, D.C., area readers: Patricia thanks Shirley Rooker, the longtime consumer advocate at WTOP radio and current president of the national Call For Action network, in the Acknowledgements of SIGN OFF.)
Consumer Tip No. 1: Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
Scam artists use the term “the ether” to describe the heightened emotional state that makes it hard to think clearly and make rational decisions. To induce ether, a master sales closer will ask questions that hit your fear, greed and urgency buttons, triggering an emotional response.
In SIGN OFF, Elizabeth looks into nomad scam artists for her “Helping Out” consumer affairs segments. These con artists went door to door, offering a free inspection, saying since they’re in the neighborhood – that day only – they have a deal for you. And yes, it’s too good to be true.
The Better Business Bureau lists “home improvement scams” as one of the worst offenders, saying “itinerant contractors move around, keeping a step ahead of the law … and angry consumers.”
In 2013, AARP created Fraud Watch Network, a watchdog site that offers anti-scam alerts, tips and resources. For example: Never make a snap buying decision — wait 24 hours for the excitement of a sales presentation to wear off and to give you time to check out the company and the product. AARP also has a Fraud Fighter Call Center at 800-646-2283 toll-free, an interactive U.S. map of fraud activity, and a pretty lively Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fraudwatchnetwork.
Elizabeth had to set aside the roofers story for a murder investigation in SIGN OFF, but she certainly was on the right track.