With all the news out of the Middle East these days about threats to the world's oil supplies or the dramatic rise in fuel prices, a certain class of swindlers is once again making an appearance.
Utahns should be on the lookout for con-artists seeking to bilk their victims by exploiting the crisis in the Persian Gulf.They come in two basic forms:
- Sales people promising to save you money by installing a fuel economizing device on your car. These people tell you a gasoline crunch reminiscent of the '70s is nearing. But most of their "miracle" devices are conglomerations of old car parts that do nothing but add extra weight to your engine.
- Charlatans posing as securities investors. These scam artists usually contact their victims through telephone calls. They promise "too good to be true" returns on oil investments and future speculations.
Such schemes surfaced during previous Middle East turmoil, particularly during the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. But similar frauds also appeared in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution and the tanker war in the Iran-Iraq conflict in the 1980s. Now they are coming out of the woodwork again.
Financial experts agree that consumers should not put their trust in "miracle" or fantastic-sounding offers. Would-be investors should not give money to strangers who contact them by phone and should check out whether an investment is registered with state authorities.
People should avoid making hasty decisions or jumping at "last chance" offers. And common sense should not be abandoned to the lure of sudden or easy riches. Few people make money overnight.
Time is an excellent test of the validity of most offers; and the old adage, "If it's too good to be true - it probably is," still holds true.