Look Out for These Scams

Stay alert for phony sales at stores and other tricks.

Con artists don’t take time off for the holidays. As the year draws to a close, here are some scams to watch out for.

Phony CDs. Low interest rates have decimated returns from certificates of deposit—the average rate for a one-year CD is just 0.74%—creating opportunities for hucksters claiming to offer a better deal. The bogus CDs offer interest rates that are much higher than average, with no early-withdrawal penalties, and require high minimum deposits—often $200,000 or more. Steer clear of any website that asks you to send money via wire transfer to an account outside the U.S., or to one with a different name than the financial institution claiming to sell the CD.

Everything must go! If your favorite store is going out of business, you may think you’ll get a great deal on its inventory. But many retailers sell their merchandise to third-party liquidators, which may charge more for some items than they cost before the sale, says the Federal Trade Commission. Use your smartphone to compare prices online before you buy.

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Binary options. Binary options allow you to make a bet on the direction of a stock, currency or other asset. Even when they’re legitimate, you can lose a lot of money. But fraudulent online platforms promoting binary options often take the money and run. A consistent theme of these platforms is they almost always show investors making a big profit, according to the Better Business Bureau. But when investors try to claim their gains, they’re told they need to deposit more funds, or the scammers vanish. If you are interested in trading options, check with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (866-366-2382) to be sure the trading platform is a “designated” market, as well as with the SEC (800-732-0330) to see if the offering is registered.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.