6 Signs You're Being Ripped Off

By Wendy Connick Markets Fool.com

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

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Consumers generally don't trust salespeople -- and it's no wonder. While the majority of salespeople are perfectly ethical people who have no intention of ripping off their customers, it's the other kind who stick in your memory, because they can easily cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unwanted expenses.

While used-car salespeople probably get the worst rap, you need to be cautious any time you're making a big purchase. Watch out for these signs that the person pitching the sale is up to no good.

1. Talking jargon

You're looking at the item you want to buy, and a salesperson oozes over and starts talking it up, using lots of dazzling descriptors and generally making the product sound like the best thing since sliced bread. You ask a question, and suddenly the salesperson loses their ability to speak English and starts speaking Techie instead.Alternatively, you might be getting along great and understanding everything the salesperson says -- right up until it's time to go over the contract, at which point they start spewing technical and legal jargon. And when you ask him to explain what he means, he just spits out more technical stuff you don't understand.

Bottom line:If you can't understand what you're buying or what you're signing, walk away.

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2. Rushing through the paperwork

When it's time to review the contracts, some salespeople will start talking like a Kentucky auctioneer, zipping right through the document without giving you a chance to read it or even really understand what it says. Or worse, your salesperson may haul out the document and a pen, point to a few dotted lines, and say, "OK, sign here, initial here, sign here, and we're done." It's possible they're just in a hurry, but it's also possible they're trying to keep you from seeing what's actually in the contract you're about to sign.

Bottom line:Read every document thoroughly before signing anything.

3. Skipping over parts of the contract

Other salespeople are more subtle. They'll dwell lovingly over certain passages in the contract (like the part about your low initial payments), answering all your questions fully and completely. Then they'll shoot right past other sections (like the part about how your payments will quadruple in year three) with a dismissive, "This part's not important." That part may not be important to him, but it's probably very important to you.

Bottom line:If a salesperson wants you to skip over part of a contract, read that part twice.

4. Dismissing disclosures as unimportant

Contracts often come in two parts: the contract itself, which is generally written and designed by the company selling the item, and disclosures, which are generally required by the state or federal government for your protection. If the government insists that buyers must be informed about a particular aspect of a purchase, it's likely in your salesperson's best interest for you not to know about it. For example, the Truth in Lending Act gives you three days to reconsider your purchase and back out of any loan -- which could cost your mortgage or car salesperson a fat commission. The salesperson may wave the disclosure in front of you and say something like, "Here's some government nonsense we have to show you," or "This is just legalese, don't worry about it."

Bottom line:Insist on actually reading those "unimportant" disclosures before you sign anything.

5. Talking at you until you give in

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Sometimes during a major purchase, you'll start to get that queasy, uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that you might be making a big mistake here. You might start coming up with objections for the salesperson, trying to give yourself more time to think about the situation. Salespeople often handle that reaction by talking around and over it, going on and on about what a great deal this is and how much you'll regret it if you don't buy today. After being harangued for a while, you may start feeling like you should just sign the contract and get it over with so you can get out of there. And that's exactly the reaction the salesperson is counting on.

Bottom line:If you're not sure this is a good idea, get up and walk away. Whatever the salesperson may claim, the product (or one just like it) will almost certainly still be there tomorrow.

6. Too good to be true

Everyone's heard the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." This should be your mantra when making large purchases. That big-screen TV is on sale for $1? Run away as fast as you can. You could get a free cruise just by attending a one-hour class --and they feed you lunch, too? Chuck the offer into the recycling bin.

Bottom line:The company offering you this great deal is only doing so because it expects to make more money off you than you'd otherwise be willing to spend, and they're almost certainly right about that.

Protect yourself from predatory salespeople

The final bottom line in any major purchase is not to make it unless you're comfortable with it. Feeling a little buyer's remorse the next day is normal, but if you have the feeling something's just not right with the sales process or the salesperson, you should trust your instincts and walk away. You may miss out on the occasional discount that way, but you're also a lot less likely to get ripped off.

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