Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stand Up against Fraud / Ask about Every Possible Extra Charge You Can Imagine before Buying So You Know the Real - Not Nominal - Cost

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stand Up against Fraud / Ask about Every Possible Extra Charge You Can Imagine before Buying So You Know the Real - Not Nominal - Cost

Article excerpt

Typical misleading ad: ``This health insurance plan covers all hospital costs.''

My response: Yes, but is maternity or well-baby care covered? Do you have to be sick first? Sometimes even the fine print only refers to a master policy you never see.

Typical ad: ``Checking is free if your balance averages $3,000.''

My response: Sure, but every canceled check can take three weeks and $10. Explain that to the IRS, MasterCard or your landlord, none of whom has any record of your payments.

Typical ad: ``This stereo is fully guaranteed.''

My response: Granted, but if you want it fixed quickly and easily, please fork over another $100 for an insurance policy on the item you just bought!

These are examples of frauds played on you daily. They can and do happen to you in variations too numerous to list, underlining once again the old chortle of P.T. Barnum that a sucker is born every minute. The chortle has a new modern ultra-high-tech sound in this, the final 13 years of the 20th Century.

What can you do? If you are too tired or too hassled to object, you can just pay what you are told and keep quiet.

If you still have the reflex to move when pinched, you might ask about every possible extra charge you can imagine before buying so you know the real, not just the nominal cost. If it's a big-ticket item, seek and talk with someone who has bought one.

If you are nicked, and if the seller won't rectify it, tell the company - and its president - that you don't like it and will shift your patronage.

If it's a hefty charge, tell your local or state consumer protection agency, the U.S. Postal Inspectors and any hotline your local media has going.

When you are told of ``user'' fees, ``unbundling'' of services and other ``hifalutin'' charges, be aware: the jargon may be designed to convince you to sit still for a little trip to the cleaners. …

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