18 Biggest Financial Scams Americans Need to Avoid

Written By Jill Taylor

There’s a reason why many deals are too good to be true—either there are hidden fees, lies about the value they bring, or straight-up scams that are out for your money. So that you know when to be wary, here are 18 common American consumer scams to avoid.

Payday Loans

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Payday loans prey on individuals with poor credit who can’t get a loan from larger financial institutions. We say “prey” because they accompany exorbitant interest rates (between 15% and 30%) with unreasonable maturity dates that only keep you in a circle of debt that’s hard to get out of.

Branded Medicine

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According to National Geographic, generic medicine costs 85% less than branded medicine. The article also tells us how Americans buy these more expensive branded medicines, even though generic medicine has the same active ingredients and works the same way as them.

Credit Repair

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A credit repair company can’t do more than what you would do to make your credit score better. They can’t remove negative remarks; they can’t pay your loans faster for you; and worse, they can’t assure you of a higher credit score after spending hundreds of dollars every month.

Luxury Water

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Infused with alkaline, luxury water promises you almost all the health benefits in the world—reduced acid reflux and inflammation, reduced constipation, better sleep, and a boosted immune system. But there isn’t any research that verifies these claims, and you’d just be paying $100 or more for regular bottled water.

Car Dealerships

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Okay, maybe you can’t totally avoid car dealerships. You should be very wary of them, though. Some of the common scams you see dealerships pull include hidden dealer prep fees, tricking you into higher-interest loans, and inflating the price of a car because they see that you urgently need it.

Auto Mechanics

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There’s a barrage of strategies auto mechanics use to scam you off your money too! For instance, they’re known to charge you for used parts as if they were new, install fake car parts, and charge you for ghost repairs that didn’t happen. Of course, they also use enough technical terminologies to keep you unassuming.

Cable TV

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Even though cable TV now offers a smaller selection of contemporary entertainment than streaming services, prices are still on the rise. And to keep people interested, providers bundle their packages with internet services, forcing you to pay $200 monthly for an added service you don’t need.

Credit Card Surcharges

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Did you know that many businesses charge you up to 5%, or a standard fixed fee, for transacting with them through a credit card? It’s a model that USA Today says costs American families an extra $1,000 a year—considered bad enough to be banned in states like Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma.

Airport Food

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If you’re looking for ways to save money on travel, you’d want to first start cutting out overpriced foods bought at airports. You’ll spend 25% more than the regular prices at retail restaurants here because of “convenience,”  which makes you better off bringing your own food. But do you know what’s worse?

Movie Theatre Food

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It’s not enough that the snacks and drinks in cinemas are up to 50% more expensive than regular retail prices; cinemas also ban you from bringing in anything bought outside of them. Theatres create a monopoly of their own that forces you to spend more than necessary because you just want to eat during a movie.

Video Games

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The microtransactions in video games are taking the joy out of them for many Americans. But this isn’t the worst part. While some video games only require in-app purchases for you to get an added advantage, the bad ones to avoid are those that force you to pay more money to access the full gaming content.

College Bookstores

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Bookstores ramp up the prices of their textbooks to earn profit. But they blame this on their expensive brick-and-mortar business, where they need to pay rent and also give publishers a cut of the profit. The catch is that you can get these textbooks for a better price elsewhere and for way cheaper if they’re used.

ATM Fees

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Banks charge you for accessing your own money through ATMs. And according to CNBC, these charges are at an average of $4.73 per transaction. How do you avoid them? You can reduce how much you pay by using your bank’s in-network ATMs and generally opting for digital alternatives for your transactions.

Convenience Stores

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Because they’re closer to you than the more pocket-friendly supermarkets, drug stores mark up their prices by up to 36%. Yes, you’re paying for “convenience,” but you’re better off making a detour to a supermarket any time you find yourself close to one.

Weight Loss Supplements

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Many people have taken advantage of others’ desperation to get healthy. The FTC reveals how “scammers place false stories online through fake news websites, blogs, banner ads, and social media to sell their weight loss products.” Diet and exercise plans proven to actually work should be your go-to instead.

Unreliable Internet Service Providers

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Internet service providers (ISPs) charge you the same amount of money every month, regardless of whether you enjoy 2 MB or 1 GB download speeds. We know that you can’t stop yourself from patronizing them. But what you can do is avoid ISPs known by customers to have unreliable connectivity.

Pet Insurance

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Not all pet insurance plans are rip-offs, but there are certainly vets waiting around to trap you in an unfavorable deal. The most apparent of these deals is having to pay a “service fee” before making a claim on your pet insurance. Many times, this charge may be more than the reimbursement you receive.

Get Rich Quick Courses and Seminars

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There are many business and financial “gurus” on the internet that claim to have the knowledge and keys to wealth. And they say you can access these through their expensive courses and seminars. You should understand that most (if not all) of these are frauds that don’t teach anything that’s not already freely accessible on the internet.

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