Even though today's consumers have gotten smarter, they still can be fooled occasionally by a good-sounding deal.
Nolo News, a quarterly self-help legal newspaper, lists some common bad ideas that sound good.Buying credit-card protection.
Some banks and card companies encourage you to buy credit-card protection, which costs about $25, for losses that occur if your cards are lost or stolen and used by someone else.
Don't waste your money. Federal law limits cardholders' liability for unauthorized charges to $50, and then only for those made before notifying the card issuer.
Buying extended warranties.
Many merchants urge you to buy extended warranties when you buy cars, appliances or electronic items. The warranties are profitable for the store, which pockets up to 40 percent of the amount before sending the remainder to the insurer.
However, the consumer rarely benefits from an extended warranty, which usually lasts no more than three to five years, the period you're least likely to need one. Name-brand appliances usually don't break down during the first few years, and if they do, they're covered by the original warranty.
Using a credit card to pay back taxes.
"Operation Deadbeat" is an Internal Revenue Service program that lets you put your back taxes on a credit card. Unless all efforts to set up a payment schedule with the IRS fail, don't do it.
Credit card interest is usually between 16 percent and 22 percent. However, if you negotiate a repayment plan directly with the IRS, you'll pay far less interest. Currently, the agency is charging 11 percent.
Paying a credit repair clinic.
Some companies claim they can fix your credit, qualify you for a loan or get you a credit card. But even legitimate companies can't do anything for you that you can't do yourself. These clinics can charge you between $250 and $2,000.
Paying for Social Security information.
Don't pay any company that offers to obtain a Social Security benefits statement, Social Security numbers for your children, or name change when you get married. You can get this information and services free from the Social Security Administration, and only you can legally fill out the application forms.
Claiming a dream vacation prize.
A favorite giveaway to lure you to sales presentations, such as those hawking condos, is the promise of a dream vacation to Hawaii, the Bahamas or Mexico. In fact, what you get is a vacation certificate.
To take advantage of it, you must typically deal with an out-of-state travel agency by mail, not by telephone. It is difficult to get reservations, and even harder to get the name of the hotel where you are supposed to stay.
Paying for credit check services.
Major credit bureaus offer services that let you check your credit file. Under TRW's program, for $39 a year you get a copy of your credit file as often as you want and notification every time a creditor receives a copy.
You don't need this service. Under federal law, you can see your credit file as often as you want.