"Let the buyer beware." "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." "Do your homework."

All are common warnings directed toward consumers regarding potential business propositions. Unfortunately, many people still fall prey to scam artists and unethical business practices, according to the Better Business Bureau of Utah.

The bureau on Monday announced its annual list of the top 10 complaint categories for Utah, and the number of complaints is up 34 percent from a year ago.

The bureau received more than 16,000 complaints this year, a news release stated. Of those, 79 percent of the complaints were resolved with the help of the companies in question.

Jane Driggs, the bureau's president and chief executive officer, said that more consumers are complaining about smaller-ticket items, are having financial trouble and want to get out of their contracts.

Among those that made this year's list were door-to-door alarm salespeople who didn't adequately inform consumers of the contract terms, credit card companies that charged high interest rates and work-at-home companies that charge consumers a fee and tell them they could earn a living just by sending out information from their homes.

"You see an ad in the paper that says you can make money stuffing envelopes from home," she said. "What it is …you send them money, (and) they send you (instructions on) how to post the same ad that you read. It's just continuing the cycle and you're not really selling anything."

Other scams that made the list include fraudulent checks sent in the mail. The bureau warned that if a consumer receives a check that is an overpayment or for something that sounds too good to be true, do not cash it because the check may bounce weeks later, leaving the consumer to pay the fees associated with the fake check.

Driggs told the Deseret News that consumers could avoid the pitfalls of potential fraud by using common sense rather than emotion.

"Take a step back and think about it — they would be able to see that something was wrong," she said.

Research the company with which you are doing business and make sure that it is reputable, because even reasonably intelligent people can be duped if they are not careful, she added.

"They think, 'I won't be the one who is scammed. I'm too smart for that,' " Driggs said.

The top 10 complaints list and consumer tips are available at www.bbb.org. Consumers also can check reports to research information about a company at that site.

e-mail: [email protected]

Source: Better Business Bureau of Utah