Leamy decided to write a how-to manual after people kept recognizing
her on the street or at stores and approaching her for consumer advice.
In "The Savvy Consumer: How to Avoid Scams and Rip-offs That Cost You Time and Money" (Capital Books; $18.95), she tried to answer the questions consumers asked her most. She ended up writing 340 pages on 128 topics, ranging from alarm-system and carpet-cleaning rip-offs to mortgages and pyramid schemes.
Divided into category chapters such as "Cars, "Credit" and "Telephone," the book is structured in a page-to-topic ratio that enables readers to bone up pronto on a particular issue. Most topics include tips on recognizing the telltale signs, avoiding the problem and fighting back if you didn't.
Appraisal: This book arms people with solid advice from a consumer advocate who has grappled with unreliable products, unrepentant CEOs and unlawful scammers. Why should you never buy an automobile marked "For Sale" by the side of the road? (Unlicensed dealers buy used cars by volume or at auctions, then, to jack up profits, pose as a consumer selling his personal car. It's called "curbstoning.") Want to know the average lifespan of household appliances? (Freezers, 15 to 20 years; washers, 8 to 12 years; dishwashers, 5 to 12 years.) It's here. How to tell if a prepaid calling card is a deal or a dupe? That's in it, too.
"There's always another scam or scheme, and it's exhausting to keep up with these wickedly clever con artists," says Leamy, recalling one heartbreaking case several years ago in which a grandmotherly woman was victimized by a "reloading" scheme. First, "she was scammed by a telemarketer," Leamy says, "then another con artist posed as a lawyer and pretended he would help get her money back. Of course, he stole even more of her money. She lost her life savings."
Like bank-examiner stings and Nigerian letter scams, the reloading rip-off has been around a long time. "It kills me that I hear the same tales of woe over and over again," says Leamy. "It's so easy to avoid consumer problems by doing your homework upfront. But it's excruciatingly difficult to get your money back after the fact."
The book also tackles some widely accepted beliefs that are plain wrong. "Consumer myths continue to floor me," says Leamy. "So many people still believe they have three days to return a car once they buy it. Wrong! So many people believe the Better Business Bureau is the government agency that helps consumers. Wrong!"
Leamy's general message to consumers, reflected in almost every page: "Be the hunter, not the hunted!"
other words, don't do business with companies that come looking for
you -- the carpet cleaner that slips a coupon under your door, the stockbroker
who cold-calls you. Instead, get referrals, do a background check and
do business with companies that you seek out."
do we all need this book now! It's not preachy. It's a good, fun read
and it WILL save you money. And it's all organized so you can whip it
out before the guy on the other end of the phone talks you into something.
There is an old joke - 'There is never time to do something right but there is always time to do it over.' With this little primer you can do it right - and save money - the first time around."
face a confusing world of challenges, choices, and traps. Elisabeth
Leamy offers valuable tips for avoiding scams, preventing heartache,
and getting the most bang for the buck. With personal anecdotes, no-nonsense
advice, and coverage of a wide variety of marketplace issues, Leamy
offers any consumer the chance to become a Savvy Consumer."
an easy to read --and even easier to digest-- road map to beating the
odds of consumer traps, get The Savvy Consumer. From Cars to Credit,
each Chapter gives shoppers --whether beginners or vets-- the essentials
for avoiding mishaps and better yet, how to deal with them when they
do happen. It's a unique source, all in one place, of information consumers
can use every day."
Bravo! The Savvy Consumer is indeed an exceptional piece and [provides] a tremendous amount of information on each of the consumer topics covered. I look for comprehensive reference materials to gain an edge in my job as an investigator combating fraud against consumers and this book could serve as the text book and guide for the industry [This] book will definitely be added to my arsenal.
consumers would read this book and practice the principles espoused
and follow the detailed guidelines, the number of consumer complaints
would be drastically reduced across the board. The info it gives is
on target, presented in easy to understand everyday language, and shows
some terrific insight as well. This will be recommended reading for
anyone involved in consumer education, consumer affairs issues, and
even those who just want to avoid the pain, hassle, and expense of being
Bob E. Harris
and informative. The format is commendable. Elisabeth Leamy doesn't
force readers to take on the entire text, but makes it easy for them
to pick and choose the relevant areas as their needs arise.
work just as hard for the dollars they give to charity as for the
Copyright 2004 Elisabeth Leamy