Safeguard Your Dollars From Common Money Cheats and Dupes


Watch out for everyday situations where the money  you spend shouldn’t have been that much.

Watch out for everyday situations where the money you spend shouldn’t have been that much.

There are many situations in our everyday life where the money we spent should not have been that much. Blame this on common money cheats and dupes we were not even aware of.  Dollars and dimes that flew out of our pocket windows without us ever realizing it (or too late when we already did) can actually add up to a fortune.

By taking note of your little everyday spending and exercising vigilance in common money transactions, you can strengthen your earning-and-saving efforts.

Here is a quick roundup of common money rip-off sources, from ATM machines to supersize french fries, and how to protect your wads by making sure it flies off your wallet  only when you really need to part with it.

Watch out for:

1. Instant debits from ATM machine service fees

While it has been bank practice for some time already, many people are still unaware of interbank charges and how much it will cost them whenever they use an ATM machine. ATM fees averaged from $2 to $6, depending on the transaction. There are charges for the basic balance inquiry and withdrawal, and higher when using interbank facilities.

Some banks also slap clients with a denial fee when they attempt to withdraw an amount exceeding their allowed daily limit or current balance. The rates can jack up when you are in a foreign country and using your local ATM card. These service fees are instantly debited from the account you entered, whether it’s a same bank or interbank transaction.

How to protect your money: While the law requires that fees be disclosed in banks and ATM stations (usually in very fine print), in the US and in most countries, it is the responsibility of the ATM cardholder to know the details of their bank’s ATM fees, which may vary over a time period and also in location.

There are places where ATM withdrawal are higher than the standard rate due to foreign bank surcharge fees, usually in casinos. Take note of this if you are in these places as the ATM cannot distinguish between a high roller and someone just needing to withdraw money. The easiest way to avoid ATM rip-offs:  Make a schedule of your ATM withdrawals to save on fees and as much as possible, transact personally in your maintaining bank branch.

2. Mistakes in your restaurant bill

A common restaurant error is charging customers for  dishes or drinks that were not ordered and served.

A common restaurant error is charging customers for dishes or drinks that were not ordered and served.

This is a rather familiar story for many readers who frequently dine out. There are many incidence of being billed in restaurants for dishes that were not actually ordered and served.  Other mistakes include being charged for family-size portions or to-share servings instead of a solo or individual serving. The same goes for drinks, when entire bottles of wine were billed when only a glass has been served. A salad or soup that erroneously found its way in your bill can add up to a lot.

How to protect your money: Check your

bills. Be thorough in thumbing down items charged to make sure you or your friends really ordered them – and they are served. Bill vigilance have been known to save many diners a fortune.  Be extra careful when dining out in big groups with many dishes ordered. Take mental notes or confirm ordered dishes when the bill comes up. If you think the bill is inaccurate, talk it over to the wait staff assigned to you.

The same is true for take-away or delivered food. Check that your package contains the right dish, servings and sides. Do not forget the sauces, spoons and paper napkins. Not only did you pay for them, you need them to eat your food, otherwise, you have to purchase these separately.

3. Price promotions in gadget stores

This money rip-off usually “victimizes” those who have little knowledge in technical retail and the schemes employed by some gadget stores so they end up with higher sales and more products sold. Be careful in buying gadgets that come with special offers like 30% off or last unit marked down price. Often, these items do not come as a complete package, meaning you have to buy important peripherals or software separately.

A bundled PC or notebook (with installed software, built-in media drive and other ready installations) sold for its standard retail price is better than a discounted unit that requires additional purchase for an operating system or a separate DVD drive. There is a reason why the same netbook model is priced differently in a nearby store. Tech store rip-offs may also occur in product warranty. Marked down items usually carry only six months to one year warranty which some store reps do not proactively disclose during their selling pitch.  Watch out too for in-store software or applications installation services that will be charged on top of your product purchase.

How to protect your money: Purchasing techie stuff can be tricky and it can lead to a real money rip-off if you do not have an idea of features that you must pay for. Always have someone truly knowledgeable on major tech purchases accompany you and help figure out features and prices.

4. Medical fee add-ons without prior patient ‘consultation’

Don’t get intimidated into agreeing to pay for add-on  products and services when visiting medical clinics.

Don’t get intimidated into agreeing to pay for add-on products and services when visiting medical clinics.

Ever had a medical appointment and find yourself shelling out more cash than you anticipated? Even with a health card network, many people complain about seeking relief in clinics and going home sicker than ever because of depleted wallet. In a dermatology clinic for instance, there are stories of skin care jars and ‘exclusive’ soap bars  being aggressively pushed to patients either as part of their regimen or as a luxurious add-on.

There are some savvy doctors, therapists, dentists, dermatologists and other medical professionals who can fire away with alternate treatments, additional sessions  and new rounds of medical supplies  without clearly asking if you agree with it. Doctors maintain professional demeanor by turning over bill issues to their secretaries.

How to protect your money: Whether it’s a first-time consultation or a follow-up visit:  Ask. Explain. Complain. Don’t be intimidated. If the doctor’s order will entail big money that you are unprepared to shell out, you can always have the option to think and weigh the issues first. Most will be willing to talk it out. Typical doctor’s visits are not life-threatening anyway, or you should have been in a hospital ER.

5. Online pay-ups and automated purchase

You clicked on a seemingly important content online (news, white paper, instructional PDF, training kits and others) and after the first suspenseful paragraph, a pop-up window appears instructing you to bring out your credit card and pay up either for a one-time access or a monthly subscription to the content provider. You felt duped already, yet in some cases, clicking X to annihilate the site for good would only pop up more windows telling you that you are making a big mistake by not getting the full story. What comes next are full-blown paragraphs foretelling doom if you leave the page because just look at the benefits you will forego aside from your intended material.

Most often, those who have less experience in online marketing schemes like this (there are many ‘variants’) will succumb to warnings of exaggerated loss that they will incur if they do not pay upfront. Some online marketers even make it so easy by automatically filling up your name and details from your registration data in the secured payment form, and all you have to do is key in your credit card number and press “pay.”

How to protect your money: Never, ever succumb to instant upfront payment online. It is basically an unplanned spending, an in-your-face money rip-off  that will be hard to reclaim back should you decide too late that you have been a victim of guerrilla marketing.   Worst, you might be compromising your credit card security.

6. ‘Friendly’ airport porters

Airport services such as exorbitant porter fees are just  one of the money rip-offs that travelers should be wary of.

Airport services such as exorbitant porter fees are just one of the money rip-offs that travelers should be wary of.

Experienced travelers have consistently warned of overly “friendly” porters lurking in some airports that prey on unaccompanied,  too young or elderly passengers, and those who look lost, stressed or distraught. Their game is to offer you their accredited services and come payment time, demand more by quoting group porter rate aside from the mandatory tip. Already pressed for time, the helpless passenger would naturally want to avoid any travel delay hassles, and just pay what’s being asked.

How to protect your money: With so many airline companies, hubs and shops, airports can be breeding grounds for a few unscrupulous people working within the facility itself. Even official employees have been linked to illegal schemes while at work. This should simply warn travelers to not let their guards down anytime when in airports. Be wary of especially busy hours, flights with heavy que and crowded baggage conveyor areas. Be wary of your surroundings but don’t look tense or freaked out. Travel light so you skip all porting service requirements and most important of all, never travel alone if you can help it.

7. Aggressive direct selling marketers

Here is another money rip-off scheme that is familiar to women, whether working or stay-at-home. The setting could be anywhere. A bookstore alley, a casual dining restaurant, a park bench, an office lounge. A woman with the warmest smile says hi, compliments you for things (real or imaginary) like your nice facial contours, flawless skin or silky hair. You awkwardly say thank you, it’s so nice of you and retreat in your own corner, but she held on and make you feel like you’re best friends already. Soon, she wields a calling card bearing her very own direct selling business – makeup, skin care, vitamins, slimming teas, bed and bath, and so on. Cutting the business empire story short, she aggressively earmarks you as a business partner, on the spot, and would not accept no for an answer. These business propositions, when entertained as is, can cost you money ranging from trial packs to starter kits and mind you, they are not cheap.

How to protect your money: While some may be truly interested in buying a product or being involved in the business, most of those who ended up pulling cash felt they needed to repay the kind words and the cordiality, or simply get rid of the pesky phone calls (even at work) and emails.

And while we do admire hardworking women (and men) who go the extra mile to earn in a good, legal way, there have been reports (and complaints) about very aggressive direct selling marketers whose strategy borders on privacy intrusion or stalking already.

If you find yourself in this situation and is not really interested, casually say no, stand your ground if there is pushiness or aggression put on you, and hold on to your precious cash and time. If interested, you can always ask the person to make a business appointment with you, at your own convenient time and place.

8. Supersize-me offers

“Would you like fries with that” is a common marketing  tactic for customers  to up their fast food spending.

“Would you like fries with that” is a common marketing tactic for customers to up their fast food spending.

This is a very familiar scenario to everyone. You walk into a fast food chain and rattle off your usual fare.  Before ringing your order, the store crew looks at you straight in the eye and in a strange concerned tone, asks you, within hearing distance of everybody, if you would like fries (or bigger fries) with that (lonely) angus bacon and cheese, or at least supersize your soda.

Unless you’re just waiting for this mechanical line to be dropped off before nodding off, the weak-willed can be swayed by the high-pitched demand into saying yes, and console one’s self with the thought that it’s a sad burger without the fries. But the tub of sugared drink that was pushed to you can be an overkill. Simply put, your average $6 to $7 lunch inflates to a whopping $12 just like that.

How to protect your money: Supersize and add-on suggestions are casually offered by fast food chains as a marketing strategy for the franchise to earn more by getting customers to order more, or try other products. Though not “illegal,” it can be avoided by the “conscious” customer. If you have a planned daily meal budget, stick to it and simply say no, thank you. For some people, when it concerns food, a spending plan can be uncalled for, but it can be simple: If you find you can’t resist a new “product,” by all means try it, just make your daily meal fare flexible and don’t break your usual budget.

Do you have a rip-off story to add to the roundup we have?
Share it in the comments field below.

Submitted by Julia Trello

Julia has been covering the finance beat for four years now. She has been writing professionally as a freelance talent for the Los Angeles Times and Forbes.com. She later moved to The Washington Post, where she covered news on politics, business and special features for two years. Julia is now part of our editorial team, where she writes features and tips to promote wealth creation and management for everyone.

Category: Financial News

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