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County of Sonoma California
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Consumer Protection Tips

Consumers can protect themselves by looking for "Red Flags."

Here are some things to watch out for:

"This is your bank calling. I need to verify your information. I need your Social Security Number, date of birth, and your mother’s maiden name."

DON’T EVER GIVE THIS INFORMATION OUT, ESPECIALLY OVER THE TELEPHONE. There are many different ways that con men will try to get private information from consumers. Sometimes they call on the phone and say that it’s the bank and they want to verify your account information. Sometimes they tell you that you’ve won a sweepstakes and they need to verify where to deposit the check. Maybe they say they’ve located along lost bank account and need the information so you can claim it.

If you give out your Social Security Number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name you have just given someone the perfect opportunity to steal your identity. Crooks can open bank accounts, obtain credit cards, auto loans, rent property and then leave you to clean up the mess. NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR PERSON INFORMATION.!

"This price/offer is only good right now." OR "This item will never be offered at a lower price."

This high pressure sales tactic is an attempt to entice the consumer to purchase an item without thinking it over, or considering other options. It doesn’t allow you to comparison shop, or even take the time to decide if you really want it! Walk away.

"Pay me in full today, and I will come back tomorrow and finish the job."

Always wait until the job is completed to your satisfaction before making payment in full. A contractor or repair person has no incentive to finish the job if you have already paid in full.

"You have been specially selected."

Don’t believe it. If you receive a solicitation in the mail with this statement, look at the envelope. It’s probably a bulk mailing sent to thousands of people. Bulk mailings are not special.

"We don’t need a contract. I give you my word."

Never go by verbal agreements. Always sign a contract. Walk away from businesses or contractors who do not put work order in writing. Con men will give you this line to imply that you’ve hurt their feelings or don’t trust them. Don’t fall for it. If their word is as good as a contract they wouldn’t mind giving you a contract!
Always read your contract in full and make sure both parties sign and date it. Don’t forget to keep your copy.

"I will keep the original contract and mail you a copy."

Even if you read and sign your contract, it won’t do you any good if you don’t have a copy. Offer to drive to a copy center and have copies made. Do not pay any money until you have a copy of the contract.

"I don’t have a phone, but you can reach me at my pager number. I always return my calls right away."

If you have a problem with them, they might not return your call. Always be wary of people who will not give you a direct phone number.

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