Whether you are shopping for a cell phone or for a complicated financial service or product, there are things the sales person (or website) might do that should serve as a warning. While it is risky to generalize, these are so often signs of trouble that they are worth listing to help you avoid them:
- Unsolicited calls offering a financial product or service. It is unusual for a reputable company or person to call out of the blue expecting to do business with you. Of course, if you sent in a coupon or filled out a form on a website, you invited the call. So a good first step is to ask: “How did you get my number?” If the answer isn’t an acceptable one, hang up!
- Pressure to decide right now. Yes, there are occasions when a “limited time offer” is legitimate, but that is rarely the case with complicated financial products. My dad had a good answer for people who tried to pressure him into a sale: “I only have one quick answer and that is no.”
- Special offers because you are “special.” Business is business and sales is about money, not personalities. That person trying to get you “sold” is not your friend and doesn’t come with the product. Once you buy, he or she is going to be off chasing the next customer.
- Anger or bullying. Rude or emotional behavior in response to your deciding to shop around or to wait is never acceptable behavior from a sales professional and doesn’t deserve a polite reply, so you don’t owe one. Just hang up or walk away.
- Additional items that drive the cost up beyond what you anticipated, just so the product will work as advertised. “Nickel-and-diming” can add up to big dollars when you thought you were buying something inexpensive. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.
- Anyone asking for information like your bank account or credit card number before you have decided to make the purchase.
- Internet offers that require your Social Security number. Never give out that number unless you are certain about the person you are dealing with and why your number is needed.
Being told not to talk things over with respected advisors or family. Bringing in the counsel of those you trust is an important part of making a safe, successful decision.
Someone who thinks she or he knows the solution to your problem without asking you anything about your problem. Think of your doctor. Even when you come in telling her or him what is wrong, you still have to answer questions so the doctor can determine be certain of providing the right treatment.
Internet offers with big benefits if you give them details about yourself. These are often sites that gather and sell people’s personal data.
Not all sales people are bad and not all Internet sites are unsafe. It is sort of like dealing with a dog someone is walking on a leash. Not all of them will bite you, but the wise thing is to behave as though they might.
Aging in place: it’s no accident. You have to be careful out there.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families.