“It was three days before Christmas and I almost got scammed. Luckily I foiled the dastardly plan. They wanted to charge me exorbitant membership fees, but the bait and switch tactic was easy to see. I’ve got to admit it was a pretty neat trick. The people that pull it are certainly slick. I’m happy to say it was just a close call. And you’d better believe I won’t forget it at all.”
Yes, I’m making light of the situation. But in all honesty I am lucky I can afford to do so. If my instincts hadn’t kicked in when they did, I could have been bilked for hundreds of dollars.
That’s somewhat ironic. And scary.
As a police reporter, I spent a lot of time writing about the predators who take advantage of unsuspecting people. I’ve also been the victim of identity theft – someone stole my Social Security number after I was divorced and used my married name (which I had already changed) to claim my tax refund. Needless to say, clearing up that mess was a lot of fun.
As a new business owner, I was peripherally aware that I could be a target for unscrupulous individuals or organizations. Or, as in this case, for what could very well be a perfectly legitimate organization using what are, in my opinion, questionable tactics.
Here’s what happened. I received an invitation to join this group. I checked out its website and was intrigued by what I saw. I was also reassured by the fact that this particular organization is currently advertising on a well-known social media site. Long story short, I filled out the initial form and was informed that a membership coordinator would be in touch.
The aforementioned coordinator contacted me on December 22. After asking a series of questions, she informed me my membership was approved. After some more small talk and flattery, she said I could choose from a couple of different membership plans, costing approximately $900 and $700 respectively. When I expressed my surprise and displeasure, she offered some “affordable” alternatives. I again declined, this time more forcefully.
“This is a classic example of a bait and switch,” I said. “I don’t want any part of it.”
If you’re a new business owner, you may also be targeted. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Before you commit to anything, research it thoroughly.
- Do not be fooled by glossy marketing material or slick websites.
- Trust your instincts.
- Be wary of any organization that does not provide information about dues or membership plans up front.
- Be wary of any organization that asks for credit card or other personal information over the phone.